Saturday, July 9, 2016

"It can happen to anyone!"

 "We are deeply concerned at the news that the Israeli government published plans to further expand settlement construction on the West Bank. This seems to be another step in the process of systematic takeover of Palestinian land which undermines the foundations of the two-state solution" said the State Department spokesperson in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu got the news during the high-profile trip to Africa and was quick to respond during a press conference held in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. "What the hell? We don’t agree with the Americans. Construction in the settlements is not at all what hinders the achievement peace. The only obstacle is Palestinian incitement, only that!".

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was standing next to Netanyahu at the press conference, added: "I, too, am criticized in the West - and I criticize the criticizers. They accuse us of having no democracy? Those who say so don’t understand Rwanda. I do what is best for our people." The fact is that Kagame holds power in Rwanda for sixteen years already, and only recently his people went to the polls and decided by a 98% majority to grant their beloved President yet another seven years. To quote from the report of Boaz Bismut of Israel Hayom, (nicknamed Bibinews), who accompanied the Prime Minister's entourage in Africa: "Kagame, one of the most impressive leaders in Africa, has a world view very similar to that of Netanyahu. Both of these leaders understand each other and trust each other, they know they can depend on each other."

As part of the government's conspicuous pampering of the settlers, five million Shekels were allocated for the establishment of bicycle paths in the settlement of Kiryat Arba. On the radio news bulletin, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel - who was deeply involved with this decision, though it had nothing to do with agriculture – was asked: "Are there so many cyclists in Kiryat Arba? Would it not it be better to invest the money in creating more bicycle paths in Tel Aviv?" - "How can you even ask such a question, when a family in Kiryat Arba is still in mourning for a 13-year-old girl murdered just a few days ago?" Replied the minister. "The settlers have suffered a severe trauma, they feel threatened, their morale must be raised."

Indeed, the 13 year old Hallel Ariel was killed last week by a Palestinian who infiltrated into the settlement. The Israeli press repeatedly published photos of her young face, and Yediot Aharonot gave a banner headline to her mother's "Goodbye, My Princess!" at the gravesite. It is unlikely that in the course of her short life she ever heard the words "occupation" or "land grab". How would she have heard of such unpleasant things at the bossom of her loving family, in a home surrounded by vineyards at the edge of the settlement?

Hallel Ariel was killed by Muhammad Taraireh from the nearby Palestinian town of Bani Naim, who was himself killed a few minutes later by the Kiryat Arba security squad. He was 17, and he wanted to avenge the death of his cousin Yusef Taraireh, who was killed by the army on March 14, as well as of a neighbor woman killed last week. Probably he also had other reasons for wanting to die. Less than a week before he killed and was killed, Taraireh wrote on Facebook: "Grave, where are you? Are you waiting for me? Angel of Death, don’t you miss me?".

Military forces laid a tight siege to Bani Na'im and revoked the work permits of 2400 townspeople. Soldiers photographed and measured the Taraireh family home in advance of its demolition. Carrying out the demolition depends on getting the court‘s approval - but in the vast majority of cases the judges do approve such demolition orders, even if there is no proof of any involvement of family members. The government and the security services assert that demolishing the homes of families is needed in order to create deterrence. Israeli judges do not tend to argue with what the security services assert is needed for security.

Currently, the Supreme Court already approved the implementing of two previous demolition orders at Qalandiya refugee camp, for the homes of two young Palestinians who had carried out an attack in the Old City of Jerusalem and were then killed on the spot. Carrying out a demolition order in Qalandiya is far from a trivial affair. No less than a thousand soldiers and police were mobilized in order to achieve this aim. They entered the camp, met with the expected resistance of local youths and immediately opened up with tear gas and "rubber bullets" (i.e., rubber-coated metal bullets). Even Red Crescent ambulances trying to reach and evacuate the wounded were met with a barrage of tear gas. Eventually the mission was accomplished: closely guarded by the soldiers, the bulldozers did their job and the homes of the Assaf and Abu Habsa families were razed to the ground. Was deterrence achieved?

 The parents of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped and burned to death by three Israelis, petitioned the Supreme Court to order the government to demolish the homes of the families of those murderers as well. So far, the government rejected such calls out of hand. According to the Defense Ministry and the security services, there are only a few isolated cases of Israeli Jews who want to harm Palestinians - and therefore, when it comes to Jews they do not need to create a deterrent, and therefore there is no reason to demolish family homes. What will the Supreme Court justices decide?

Meanwhile, at the Jaffa Military Court the trial is continuing of the famous (or infamous) Sergeant Elor Azaria, who while on service at the city of Hebron shot and killed a Palestinian who was lying wounded on the ground. Earlier this week, extensive media attention was given to the emotional (in some views, well rehearsed) courtroom outburst by Charlie Azaria, the defendant's father: "They are framing my boy! Don’t you see it? They want to put him in jail - for what? Where have we come to? What do the prosecutors know about Hebron? Had any of them ever been in Hebron? Did one of them sent an 18-year old boy to serve in Hebron? Day and night, I hear the soldiers. They talk to me. They are haunted by fear. They don’t sleep at night. They can’t walk a single meter without the fear of being stabbed. Our people are being blown up, being murdered. Is it for that that I sent my son to be a combat soldier? So that they will send him to jail? Where is the Prime Minister?"

In Yediot Ahronot, Nahum Barnea wrote:"The Israelis who demonstrate in support of Azaria do not care what the law says. They are convinced that there is no difference between shooting a terrorist who is charging , knife in hand, and shooting a terrorist who is lying helpless on the asphalt. Terrorists should be killed under all circumstances. The Israelis who commiserate with his parents on the social networks do not care about the norms in the army. They regard a 20-year old soldier as a child, who should not be held culpable - certainly not when it comes to killing a terrorist. ",7340,L-4825622,00.html

Of course, Azaria’s lawyers can’t openly present such arguments to the judges. The defense line is based on the attempt to prove that Azaria felt sincerely threatened, fearing that the person lying on the ground might be carrying an explosive device and that that was why he deliberately shot him in the head. Officers took the witness stand, one after the other, refuting such assertions and stating explicitly that Azaria had no grounds to feel threatened, and that it was up to his commanding officer who was on the spot to deal with any threatening explosive device. Thereupon, Azaria’s fans filled the social media with wild abuse and some death threats against the testifying officers.

This week, the B'Tselem Human Rights organization presented new evidence regarding the circumstances under which the 27-year-old Sarah Hajuj was shot to death at the Tomb of the Patriarchs on the morning of July 1. The police version is that she was shot when holding a knife and threatening to stab a female police officer who was about to conduct a search. Witnesses assert that she had been already subjected to massive quantities of pepper spray directly in the face which completely overwhelmed her, and that she no longer constituted any kind of threat when a policeman killed her by four consecutive gun shots.

This time, B'Tselem did not come up with a video to show the exact circumstances of the killing. No official body in Israel would consider launching yet another sensational and controversial trial, based solely on the testimony of Palestinian witnesses. The adherents of Sergeant Azaria assert that "He only got in trouble because B'Tselem took that video of him" – and they are likely right.

Also this week, the army’s "Conscience Committee" heard the arguments of Conscientious Objector Tair Kaminer, who is already for six months going in and out of the military prison, and in again. Unlike Azaria, who is not being handcuffed when taken to the military tribunal, Tair Kaminer was brought from the military prison to the Conscience Committee room with handcuffs on.

When given the opportunity to speak, she told the senior officers constituting the Conscience Committee that it would be against her conscience to take part in what she regards as the cycle of bloodshed and violence. She is not

prepared to accept the committee’s narrow definition that "conscience" consists solely of pacifism and of absolute refusal to serve in any army whatsoever, under any circumstances. "Prior to the date of the call-up, set for me by the army, I did a year of community service, working with children in Sderot on the Gaza border and experiencing the harsh reality of the Israeli children who grow up in that area. The situation is also harsh for Palestinian children who grow up in Gaza or the Occupied Territories. They all learn to hate the other side. When I look at all these children together, at the future generations of both sides and the reality in which they grow up, I see an endless continuity of trauma and pain. Already for years, there is no effort to achieve a political solution, no attempt whatsoever to bring peace to Gaza and Sderot. By opting for a violent military way, we are perpetuating on both sides a hatred which would just worsen with every new generation. Therefore, I cannot take an active part in maintaining a status quo which in my view must be completely changed. That would be completely contrary to the dictates of my conscience. "

Thirty-nine well-known jurists, including five former deans of Law Faculties at Israeli universities, wrote to the head of the IDF Legal Branch, calling upon the army to recognize Tair Kaminer’s right to Freedom of Conscience. The Military Conscience Committee is in no hurry to make a decision. Tair’s parents call every day - and every day they receive the reply that the Commission continues to deliberate on her case.

And this, too, took place this week: Israeli circus artists - and three Palestinian circus performers from Nablus - converged on the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall in Tel Aviv to express solidarity with the Palestinian clown and circus artist Mohammed Abu Saha, who is already seven months imprisoned without trial. "No to Administrative Detention!" "They arrest clowns, too!" said the placards waved towards the crowds strolling to the nearby Artisan Fair. In the middle of the street, a clown was sitting in a cage. Next to him, an activist spoke through a loudspeaker: "The so-called Israeli Administrative Detention is nothing but imprisonment without trial. Without trial, without any charge, without a lawyer, without anyone telling you of what you are accused and how long you can expect to stay behind bars. Imprisonment without trial, and it can happen to anyone! It can happen to any one of us, at any time! " At this point, two other activists approached, who played the role of soldiers. They gagged the speaker while he shouted: Help! Help!, tied his hands and pushed him into the cage next to the clown.

This little performance greatly moved one of the passers-by, who tried to burst in and release the detainees inside the cage. But the police, who were present in order to maintain order, rushed up, grabbed the man and dragged him away. While being dragged off, the man screamed: "He is right! It really can happen to anyone!"

Friday, June 10, 2016

Israel 2016: A house divided

Sunday, June 5, 2016 - forty-ninth anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This year it intersected with "Jerusalem Day," when the government of Israel and the extreme right celebrate according to the Jewish calendar what they call "The Liberation and Unification of Jerusalem". It also coincided with the start of the Muslim fast of Ramadan. On that day I stood among several hundred demonstrators on the balcony of the Jerusalem Town Hall, to protest the annual "Dance of the Flags" held by the young Nationalist-Religious-Messianic of all types.

Along Jaffa Street below us the procession flowed, a forest of Blue and White Israeli national flags and sprinkled among them some flags of the Movement for Building the Temple and a Yellow flags held by fans of the notorious Beitar Soccer Club. The chants made by protesters on the balcony included "You have no shame - no holiness in an occupied city!" and "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies". There were signs "Standing together against the occupation! "," Standing together to build hope!"and "The one who shouts 'Death to the Arabs" is not a Jew! ". The most enraging for the Flag Dancers on the street was a big banner reading in Arabic and Hebrew: " Ramadan Karim – we wish our Muslim friends an easy fast". Many of them approached us with their flags, furiously shaking their fists, on their way to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. They repeatedly sung the national anthem "Hatikva", followed by "No fear, Jews / No fear! / For rampant lions you are/ Rampant lions! / When the lion roars / Who is not afraid?. This was answered by the incessant drumming of the Peace Drummers, each drum roll accompanied by the thundering chant "End the occupation! End the occupation! ". Only a short distance separated us from them. Five steps on which the police stood guard to prevent any direct contact.

On the following day Jerusalem Post published my article:

Israel 2016: A house divided

A hundred and fifty-eight years ago, an American politician named Abraham Lincoln, running for the Senate, made a famous campaign speech: "A house divided against itself cannot stand.

I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it on the course of ultimate extinction – or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, North as well as South."

Our own Israeli house became divided, its government "half slave and half free," in that week of glorious victory in June 1967. Since then, inside the Green Line we have an elected government, issuing from reasonably free multi-party elections. On the other side of the Green Line, the same government is a military dictatorship. It rules by force over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, making no pretense that its rule there is based on anything remotely resembling the consent of the governed.

This was supposed to be a strictly "temporary" measure, pending unspecified negotiations at an unspecified future time. Forty-nine years later, Israeli military rule over the Palestinians is still an overwhelming reality, not substantially changed by the creation of a powerless "Palestinian Authority." Nor was the essential fact of Israeli domination changed by the "disengagement from Gaza," whereby direct military rule was replaced by a harsh siege, strangling Gaza’s economy and effectively making it a huge open-air prison.

Come Knesset elections time, a polling station is placed at the heart of Hebron. Entitled to cast their votes there are about a thousand Israeli settlers. Excluded from the vote are some 200,000 Palestinian Hebronites.

These 49 years of Israeli military rule have seen the relentless advance of the settler movement, spreading in ever greater numbers over the West Bank and taking up still more Palestinian land. Religious-Nationalist Messianism, which burst on the scene in those euphoric days of June 1967, is becoming ever more militant, ever more powerful and dominant.

Israelis who still adhere to such concepts as democracy, or human rights, or simply common decency, increasingly feel beleaguered and threatened – and not only left-wingers.

Moshe Ya’alon, defense minister until a week ago, a peace skeptic and outspoken supporter of continued military rule, still had some scruples about the outright killing of a disarmed prisoner. His place is being taken by the blatantly brutal Avigdor Liberman – guaranteed free of such squeamishness.

The Israel of 2016 is getting increasingly out of tune with the international community. It is also getting out of tune with a growing number of Jews worldwide – especially the younger generation of Amercian Jews, deeply imbued with those same democratic values which are under threat in the Israeli society. It is strange and unsettling to Israelis who have not given up the hope of peace to find that we can rely on the government of France rather than on the government of Israel.

A year from now, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians will be 50 years old. It is common to call a 50-year anniversary "a jubilee" – a word which is derived from the Hebrew "yovel" and from the Jewish scriptures. There, it denotes far more than the simple passage of 50 years.

A Jubilee was supposed to be a very special kind of year – a time when slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and alienated land returned to its owners.

Inspired by this biblical verse, American Civil War soldiers sung "Hurrah! Hurrah! We bring the Jubilee!" when marching to set slaves free.

"You shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants" so says the Book of Leviticus. Shall we still live to see the coming of the Jubilee to our land?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Return of the Desert God

Happy Holiday of Liberty!
(Palestinians crossing the Taybe Checkpoint)

"We are commanded to recount the Exodus from Egypt." "The more you recount the Exodus, the better." "In every generation, every person must see himself as if he came out of Egypt." So does Jewish tradition tell us.

Historians and archaeologists may well continue to argue for many more years about whether there is any historical basis to the story which appears in the Biblical Book of Exodus. But whether or not it reflects any actual historical events which took place in the land of Egypt more than three thousand years ago, there can no doubt that this story had a profound effect on how Jews perceived themselves throughout the ages. Also this year Jews everywhere were recounting the Exodus - even if many of them only recited traditional texts and did not devote much reflection to its meaning.

It was not only the Jews who were influenced by the story of the Exodus. Christianity took it up in whole, as part of the Old Testament, and as such took care to have it translated into all languages ​​and spread throughout the world. Also Islam took up the story of the Exodus and included its own version in the Qur'an. The story of the slaves who chafed under oppression and of the great liberator named Moses has become part of the common heritage of humanity, a source of inspiration and hope to all who suffer from oppression and dream of liberation.

Especially, as is well known, this story was a major fount of hope for the Blacks in America. Brutally torn from their homeland and shipped in a horrific journey across the ocean, to a life of slavery in a foreign country - where their language and culture and religion were taken away from them, and they were forced to take up instead the master’s language and religion. And then, it was exactly in the Scriptures of the new religion which was forced upon them that the Black slaves found a source of hope, a powerful story about people who were enslaved like themselves and who had cried out to God - who sent them a savior and liberator. 

Thus, during generations of slavery under the overseer’s whip, and later generations of repression and severe discrimination, Black people in America dreamed of the day of liberation and of their own Moses who would cry out "Let My People Go!"

Harriet Tubman, born a slave in the southern United States, was able to escape to freedom - and then returned many times to the South, to help other slaves escape. She became a legend among the slaves, and was nicknamed "Moses".

And after all this history – this year, too, Passover came around, the time when the Jews who gave this story to the world are commanded to recount the Exodus from Egypt, the more the merrier. During Passover it was that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who considers himself the leader of the Jewish people everywhere, spoke on TV and wished a Happy Holiday to all Israeli citizens, but especially the soldiers of the IDF and the Police and the Border Guards. 

Passover Seder ceremonies were held in military bases across the Palestinian Territories, in which took part the soldiers manning the roadblocks on the highways of the West Bank roads, and going on night raids and detentions in Palestinian towns and villages, as well as the crews of the gunboats enforcing the tight blockade of the Gaza coast. Also the settlers living under the army’s protection on confiscated Palestinian land celebrated with great pomp the Holiday of Liberty and recounted the Exodus until the late hours of the night. 

In fulfillment of the ancient commandment "Thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt", the Israeli National Police launched on Passover an especially intensive hunt for Palestinians staying in Israel without a permit, police commanders impressing on their subordinates the importance of swiftly apprehending all such offenders.

In one particular Israeli home, this year’s celebration of the Holiday of Liberty reached a high peak. Sergeant Elor Azaria, who last month in Hebron shot in the head a wounded Palestinian lying on the ground and was photographed in the act by a Human Rights activist – was given a special leave from detention in order to spend the Holiday at home with his loving family. 

As indicated in opinion polls, a majority of Israeli Jews think that a person who is considered a terrorist should be killed even if disarmed and no longer posing any threat. Therefore, they concluded that Sergeant Azaria should not be charged with murder, nor with manslaughter – rather, he should be released and perhaps even given a citation and a medal.

In order to understand the deep roots of the present situation in the State of Israel, it might be worthwhile to take a look at another part of the Bible, a far less enticing one - the story of the Conquest of Canaan. After the great liberation from bondage in Egypt, the freed Hebrew slaves wandered the desert for forty years. They were reluctant to undertake the mission which God sought to impose on them, i.e. to embark on a big war and conquer by force the Promised Land; for that reluctance, the Bible brands them as cowards.

The mission fell to their children, who did not remember the time of slavery in Egypt. Under the commander of Joshua, Son of Nun, they ferociously attacked the Land of Canaan and conquered city after city. At the command of God they then massacred all the inhabitants, men and women, old and children - in some places, even the domestic animals. At the happy end, they proceeded to divide and parcel out the land which had been emptied of its inhabitants.

At least, that is how it is described in the Bible’s Book of Joshua. Many of modern researchers and historians doubt the veracity of this depiction. If so, then this book - which gained a sacred status as part of the Jewish Scriptures – must have been authored by a person with a particularly morbid imagination. This text, too, was fully taken up by Christianity, which got it widely translated and distributed around the world. And it, too, served as a source of inspiration. It was easy enough for European settlers in North America and South Africa to identify themselves with Joshua’s Hebrew warriors and regard Blacks of Native Americans as the new Canaanites.

It is noteworthy that Judaism itself, which originally introduced this text to world culture, has taken an increasing distance from it over the centuries. The distant descendants of those savage nomads – they who had broken out of the desert with blood-dripping swords and destroyed the cities of Canaan - had themselves become the quintessential urbanites in all in many countries where they lived. Above all they admired scholars and sages, and kept their distance from warlike activities (in truth, there was in any case little opportunity for them to get involved with such...). Also the God in which Jews believe – A Universal God who holds eternal sway "From end to end of the world" was far removed from the bloodthirsty tribal God of the ancient nomads. The Jews also abandoned the blood sacrifice of animals, which had made the temples of the ancient world into veritable slaughterhouses, and replaced it with public prayer – a custom adopted also by Christians and Muslims.

The Book of Joshua - plus other bloody verses and chapters - remained part of the Bible. Observant Jews must not omit even one letter from the Scriptures, let alone a whole book. But it is completely permissible to provide softening interpretations and glosses. Also, it was perfectly possible to put off dealing with all such issues until the coming of the Messiah, until when they would be irrelevant to the actual lives of Jews in the here and now – and such indeed was the normal practice of Rabbis and Great Sages. For centuries, this was not at the focus of Jewish faith and tradition; among the many sacred dates and holidays on the Jewish calendar, no date was set to commemorate Joshua and the conquest of Canaan.

So it was until the rise of the Zionist movement in Nineteenth Century Europe - which even before reaching the Promised Land and meeting face to face with Arabs had already begun to cultivate dreams of "A Muscular Judaism". In 1899 Saul Tchernichovsky - a young Jewish student who came from the Ukraine to study medicine at the University of Heidelberg, and who was destined to become one of the main Zionist poets – wrote one of his most memorable poems: The people have grown old—their god with them / Passions, stifled by unmanlike folk / Have arisen from a thousand years of slumber! / I bend the knee to life, to beauty, to power / To all the wondrous glories, of which / Corrupt and degenerate walking corpses / Have robbed the mighty God / Of the vast uncharted deserts / The God of the conquerors / Who took Canaan by the storm / But these have bound him up in straps, in phylacteries!

One hundred and seventeen years have passed since a passionate young poet wrote down these words. A hundred and seventeen years in which the Zionist Movement and the State of Israel were engaged on the task of releasing the God of the Conquerors of Canaan from his chains. 

The ultimate fruit of these efforts, the visage of the rampant God of the Desert, could be glimpsed in the video released this week with footage from a demonstration in Tel Aviv, an enthusiastic rally called in support of that aforementioned Sergeant Elor Azaria, who had aimed his rifle and shot point-blank at the head of an injured person lying on the ground. "Muhammad is dead! Muhammad is dead!" chanted the crowd, and then "We will burn down your village! Burn, village, burn!" and "A Jew Has a Soul – an Arab is a Whoreson!" followed by "A Leftist is a Whoreson!" and "Fuck the Media"and concluding with a plain "Death to the Arabs! Death to the Arabs! Death to the Arabs! "

Undoubtedly, the God of the Conquerors of Canaan is by now rampaging, completely unrestrained, throughout the State of Israel and the territories under its ongoing military rule. And where can we find, these days, somebody to try binding him up again? Maybe at Boston, Massachusets.

On the same day that the video from the Tel Aviv rally landed on the Facebook pages, there arrived also another video – showing members of a Jewish organization called "If Not Now" who tried to hold a Liberation Passover Seder on the premises of AIPAC. 

The footage shows activists being arrested by Boston Police on charges of trespassing, being taken handcuffed one by one into a police car. Their fellows outside the building are shown accompanying them with singing and the waving of banners: "End the occupation!" / "Occupation is a plague", "Next Year – Freedom and Dignity for All!"/. A statement issued by the organizers read: "Thousands of American Jews will do what it takes to make sure the next President – whoever they may be – knows that the strongest movement in history to end the occupation is rising in the Jewish community".

The name of this organization is also derived from the traditions of Judaism. The First Century Sage Hillel, well-known for his humane interpretation of Jewish tradition, had said " Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?". And he also said "In a place where there are no people , strive to be human".

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Three masked soldiers and an arrogant cat

The debate already started when we were waiting for the bus in Tel Aviv and continued all the way to Jerusalem, across the Green Line to the Tunnels Checkpoint. Of course, it was about the hottest topic these days – the soldier filmed in Hebron when he shot a "neutralized" Palestinian in the head.

- "Did you see? They already moved this murderer to "open detention in a military camp". They wriggled out of charging him with murder. Mark my words, he will probably be put up on charges of ‘careless use of his gun’ or something like that, and he will get one week on probation."

- "What do you expect when the polls show such a majority supporting this bastard? Quite simply, most Israelis think he acted fine. This country is really going to the dogs!"

- "We should have gone there, to the Castina Military Court during the preliminary hearing. We should have confronted the fans of this soldier, all this crowd who said how much they loved him. We should have been there with a counter-demonstration, chanting "Murderer - to prison! Jail the Murderer! ". Then, the whole country would have seen that there are two sides to this debate. The international media would have broadcasted in a big way."

- "Do you really want to go butting heads, have an all-out fight with all those hot-heads, the Beitar football fans, La Familia, the rest of this trash?"

- "They don’t scare me. If we get scared of a handful of Fascists, we can as well go out of business right now."

- "I am not scared of them, either. If there is no choice I'm not shying away from a fight. But if we had gone there, we would have been accused of picking on the little cog, on a simple soldier. That we were leaving alone the higher-ups who give the orders and determine policy."

- "A small cog? Somebody who makes a conscious decision to kill, points his gun and pulls the trigger and shoots in the head a helpless man lying on the ground? It that a small cog? In my book, that is a very big cog, it is a man who decided to become the Angel of Death. He's a murderer, pure and simple. A murderer!".

- "But if you focus on that soldier, you walk right into the trap which was laid by Defense Minister Ya’alon and his gang. Ya'alon pretends that all the soldiers in the IDF are righteous and pure and moral, and there is only one bad apple in this barrel. Just two weeks ago, Ya'alon said that ‘Breaking the Silence’ are traitors, now he is the pure stainless knight who holds soldiers to high standards of moral behavior. Do you want to become a Ya'alon cheerleader? I don’t".

- "I'm not exactly a Ya'alon fan, but somebody from the military and political establishment says something good for a change, and then gets heavily attacked for it by the extreme right, I don’t mind standing up for him."

- "But what Ya'alon said is not really something good. He said that the occupation is OK, the soldiers are all swell guys, only this one soldier is bad. This is hypocrisy, first class hypocrisy."

- "Hypocrisy? Maybe. I prefer hypocrisy to those who say that a murderous soldier is a hero. Those who talk like that may not be hypocrites. They are outspoken fascists".

- "Think for a moment what all this looks like to ordinary people. People who are not political activists like us, people who get their information only from the mainstream media plus some shit which is passed on through the social media. Everyone knows there were many other soldiers who did exactly the same thing, soldiers who deliberately killed Palestinians who did not pose any threat. Soldiers who killed for revenge, or killed for the sake of killing. The only difference is that with those other soldiers there was no camera to catch them in the act and provide clear proof. So, for Ya'alon and the Army Chief of Staff, all these other soldiers are fine. Perhaps they even deserve a commendation. Do you really want to be part of this organized hypocrisy? I think that's exactly the reason why the extreme right succeeded in mobilizing so much public support for this soldier. The public feels that this is hypocrisy, that one soldier is made the scapegoat for all the others who go scot free."

- "By the way, Senator Leahy, quite an important American Senator, demands an investigation of all the Israeli soldiers did killings in recent months. Not only this particular soldier, also the many others before him. This shows that AIPAC's power is slipping. However much they clap for Trump, their control of Capitol Hill is shaking ".

- "That is true. At least one bit of good news on this lousy week. Look, we're already near the Tunnels Checkpoint, the Palestinians are already waiting for us."

- "Actually, that's our real answer to this soldier and to all those who embrace him. That's the answer, Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators who march together and struggle together against the occupation."

Before the doors opened, a representative of the organizers took the microphone: "Remember, our goal here is to march, jointly and nonviolently. Israelis and Palestinians who march together and struggle together - that is more than enough, this fully conveys our message, loud and clear. Our goal is to steadily increase the number of participants, each month having more marchers than on the previous march, more Israelis and also more Palestinians. Marching nonviolently means we do not make provocative acts towards soldiers or settlers. It also means that we do not respond to their provocations, even if they do something very annoying. Remember, one second of ill-considered action can get the entire event depicted in a light which we definitely don’t want. "

We go down. We have arrived in a full bus from Tel Aviv, another busload came from Jerusalem, and quite a few private cars were there from various other places. We were joined by several dozen Palestinians who had arrived before us - some of them from this area south of Jerusalem, some from the Qalqiliya Area where "Combatants for Peace" has extensive activity.

The new initiative called "Standing Together" had started at the beginning of the Third Intifada (the "Wave of Terror", as part of the mainstream Israeli media still insists on calling it). There were demonstrations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be’er Sheba. Then there started a routine of holding a joint march on the first Friday of every month, a "Freedom March" at the Tunnels Checkpoint south of Jerusalem - a place that both Israelis and Palestinians can reach quite easily, and for which Palestinians need not ask for permits. Today, it is the fifth Freedom March.

A high wall separates us from the Palestinian town of Beit Jala. The wall was built with the proclaimed aim of protecting the settlers of the Gush Etzion "settlement bloc". A great number of settlers make daily use of this highway which the government of Israel built for them and the two tunnels which were dug in mountain rock at a huge expanse, so as to shorten the settlers’ route to Jerusalem. Along that highway we are going to walk for several kilometers. At the foot of this wall, to which somebody made an effort to give a little aesthetic appearance so as to disguise its nature.

Israelis and Palestinians meet and mingle within seconds. Here and there, old friends shake hands and stand together, some of them spreading out large banners which require three or four people to bear them. Organizers hand out signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English: "There is another way" / "It will not end - until we talk!" / "Stand together against occupation and violence" / "Stand together against racism and hatred" / "Theft of land breeds violence" / "Our tears all have the same color" / "Building together a new hope."

The Gush Shalom round placards, bearing the flags of Israel and Palestine are quite popular among the marchers, and also taken up by some Palestinians. Some others wave the flag of Palestine alone. Two Palestinians hold up a giant cardboard figure of ''Handala", the archetypal child refugee created by the late cartoonist Naji al-Ali who has become the widely used symbol of Palestinian identity. Many participants hold aloft olive saplings, which are to be planted at the end of the march.

On the other side of the road stands a lone settler with a giant Israeli flag. He will be with us in a counter-demonstration along the entire route.

The Drummers’ Band start marching and drumming and accompanying their drumming with the chanting "Down with the Occupation! Down with the Occupation!" Following is the entire crowd, two or three hundred people who came here to swim against the tide. One of the organizers, holding a megaphone, starts the chanting: "Israel and Palestine - two states for two peoples!" / "Occupation is a disaster – Peace, the solution!" / "From Beit Jala to Bil'in, liberate Palestine!" / "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!" / "No to Occupation! No to Violence! No to Settlement!" / "One, two, three, four – Occupation no more! Five, six, seven, eight – Stop the killing, stop the hate!". Some marchers start, without a megaphone, a chant of their own:"There can remain / Little doubt / IDF is terrorist / That’s a fact!".

On the high ledge above us, near the top of the Wall, the march is followed by three soldiers whose faces are covered with dark cloth masks, only their eyes visible, and who carry particularly large rifles. Along the highway itself, we are followed by a military jeep, with an officer at the rank of major (his face, at least, is visible…). Gershon Baskin, Jerusalem activist known to be involved in very creative forms of "alternative diplomacy", goes to the jeep. "Excuse me, officer, can I ask why your soldiers are covering their faces?" - "These are the Standing Orders, so as not to let them be photographed and recognized." - "Is that so? Not to let them be photographed and recognized? Indeed? Are they by any chance planning to engage in some kind of illegal activity, which makes them reluctant to be recognized later?" - "No, of course not. Covering the face is routine, part of the Standing Orders". - "Whose Standing Orders are these?" - "These Standing Orders were issued by a person authorized to issue Standing Orders. I am not obliged to specify to you the entire Chain of Command." The officer returns to the jeep and continues forward. The three masked soldiers who did not utter a word, continue to follow the demonstration. A few steps behind them walks a very big ginger cat, tail held high, who looks arrogantly at the strange games human beings engage in.

End of the route, and the railing at the side of the road becomes a makeshift podium. Arabic speeches are translated into Hebrew, and vice versa.

"Peace be upon you! I, Bayan Tabib, Mayor of Izbat al-Tabib and member of the Qalqilya-Tel Aviv Chapter of Combatants for Peace, greet all who had come to walk here. This march is held very near to the date of Land Day, which all Palestinians mark on March 30. For my village, Izbat al-Tabib, Land Day is an especially important time. All the time, the settlers are trying to take our village’s land by force. We resist, we cling to the land and defend it, and our Israeli friends help us defend it!. On this day I want to say to the occupation forces, to the Netanyahu government which is the settler government: you will not break us! We will struggle, struggle together with our Israeli partners, our Israeli friends. We say No to the Occupation, and again No to the Occupation, and yet again No to the Occupation! We will struggle and struggle, on and on, until peace is achieved between our two states. I invite you all to visit us next Friday for a demonstration of the residents of Izbat al-Tabib together with our friends of Combatants for Peace, a demonstration to save and preserve the village's lands!"

"I'm Ron Gerlitz, co-director of the NGO 'Sikuy’ ["Give a Chance"]". It is an association which unites Jews and Arabs, which aims to create a new, different relationship between the two peoples. I am proud to stand here today. I am proud to be part of the joint struggle against the occupation. I am proud of my fellow activists in the Human Rights activists, who are nowadays constantly attacked and slandered and accused of all sorts of trumped-up charges. I am proud to stand together with Israel's Arab citizens, against whom a massive with hunt is being conducted. This campaign reached its peak this week with the Knesset voting to pass the disgraceful so-called Suspension Law, whose immediate aim is to throw out of the Knesset the Balad Party. They want to require the Arab citizens of Israel to bend and contort themselves in order to fit into the very narrow space of political expression that the extreme right is pleased to ‘allow' them. They don’t accept this, they demand the freedom to express themselves freely, just like any other citizen, and they are completely right! (…) When one sees such horrific things as the high percentage of public support for the soldier shot and killed in Hebron, it is very easy to lose hope and give up. But we do not despair! We know there is no future for us in this country if we cannot build a society founded on democracy and coexistence. Without this, there is no future for anyone, not for the Jews and not for the Arabs, not for Israelis nor for Palestinians. We do not despair! We will continue to struggle together, we will build our future together, all of us! "

The last speaker was Taalah, a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Ramallah who came straight from having taken part in the Bethlehem Marathon earlier in the day. "We are here, Israelis and Palestinians together. We are together and we will stay together, like olive saplings planted deep in the ground! We're together, we fight together for peace and honor and life and freedom, peace for all of us, freedom for all of us, against the occupation and against violence, we are fighting together, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims... [shouts from the crowd: "And Christians! Christians too! "] Yes, we are fighting together, all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Christians and Muslims, we fight together and we will win together, we are together till the end of the occupation, till the peace between our peoples!"

An organizer takes megaphone: "We come now to the final stage of today’s event - the planting of the olive saplings which we brought with us. The place we selected for planting them is on the other side of the road. We are asking everyone to be careful while crossing. Aside from all political considerations, this is a busy intercity highway. We really would not want to have some stupid accident. "

We carefully begin to cross the road. Suddenly, five activists step forward, carrying cardboard copies of the "Separation Wall" and place them squarely in the middle of the road, completely blocking the way for dozens of settler cars. Behind them, the demonstrators go on crossing the busy road. "It would not hurt the settlers to taste for five minutes what the Palestinians have to endure all the year around – to encounter a wall that looks just like this, a wall that blocks their way and which they are not allowed to cross."

A moment of tension. But, the settlers continue to sit in their cars. Also the three masked soldiers, and a dozen non-masked soldiers who joined them, wait patiently. All marchers crossed safely, the cardboard wall was put aside and the steam of settler cars on the road resumed.

Big red sign at the entrance to the side road stated: "This road leads to the A Area, controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Entry is forbidden for Israeli citizens. Such entry endangers your life and constitutes a criminal offense". We pass the sign and continue to walk a bit further and reach the plot which had been selected in advance. Volunteers take up spades, dig holes, and within a short time all seedlings are planted and the soil packed tightly around them and upon completion of the planting everybody claps. "We need the help of people s with cars who can come here periodically to water the seedlings" says a representative of the organizers. "We will continue to hold marches on the first Friday of each month. We hope to see you in May and June, you and also your friends who did not come today. And I want to remind you - in a week there is a demonstration of our friends in Izbat al-Tabib. That, too, is very important – transportation will be available. See you! "

On the way back could be seen out of the bus window the ginger cat, now walking alone on the empty route of the march.

For more photos:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"I am in prison and you are with me on the outside"

The murderous attack in Brussels once again aroused the kind of Israeli responses to which we've gotten used in earlier cases, from 9/11 to the attacks in Paris. Once again we heard the wild hope that the Europeans will at last "start understanding us", that they would cease badgering Israel about Palestinian statehood and settlement construction. This was followed by a call upon the Belgians - and the Europeans in general – to "stop eating chocolate," drop the democracy and human rights nonsense and join with Israel in an all-out war on Islam. And all that is quite tame compared with some of the people who fill the net with very wild "talkbacks". Having given up on the Europeans ever changing their tune, they resort to crude gloating: "The Europeans deserve it", "They are Anti-Semites", "This is a retribution for the Holocaust."

The Channel One TV commentators were a bit more subtle. Still, they too discussed at length the question of whether the European security services will now begin to "work seriously" and take up the methods of the Israeli Shabak, and whether European courts would stop splitting hairs over Human Rights and start emulating the Israeli Supreme Court in facilitating "the intensive interrogation of terrorist suspects." After half an hour of discussion, the experts in the TV studio reached a conclusion: "No, the Europeans are not really going to change. They take Human Rights seriously, and will not give up on them. Maybe they will undertake some emergency measures, but if there are no further attacks in Belgium for a year they'll be go back to normal."

Only towards the end of the discussion did one commentator venture to say with an apologetic smile: "Actually, maybe it's for the better that Europe will remain Europe. Better that there will remain somewhere in the world a lighthouse to which people could look with hope. After all, the number of people who come from the Middle East to Europe in the expectation of getting there the rights that they are denied in their own countries is greater by far than the number of people who come from the Middle East in order to kill Europeans". The other commentators looked at him with amazement, but it was the end of the panel discussion.

Meanwhile Purim has come around, the Holiday which Jewish tradition had set to commemorate events which happened (or perhaps did not actually happen) in the Persian Empire some 2,500 years ago. As with many of the stories in the Bible, one can find in the Book of Esther whatever one wants to find there. It can well be read as the story of a religious and ethnic minority, subject to hatred, prejudice and persecution, and faced with a very concrete threat of genocide includes - which was saved at the last moment thanks to the courage and resourcefulness of a young woman. It is also possible to read the Book of Esther as the story of aggressive and vengeful Jews, transformed from persecuted into persecutors. Jews who were not satisfied with hanging the one who plotted to kill them but also hanged on a high tree all ten of his sons - including the youngest who (as Jewish tradition tells) was a young innocent child – and who then went on to commit acts of mass, indiscriminate massacre.

It is the second interpretation which is current at the settler enclave in Hebron. Annually, they hold their Adloyada (Purim Carnival) on the city streets under heavy military guard, while Palestinian residents are required to stay indoors and wait until the settlers have finished their celebration. Quite often, in these processions, settlers commemorate Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who in the Purim of 1994 murdered 29 Muslim worshipers during prayers. And this year, during the holiday of Purim at the nationalist-religious settler enclave in Hebron, it happened that a soldier pointed his gun at a Palestinian lying on the ground, who no longer posed any threat, and shot a fatal bullet at his head. What this soldier posted on his personal Facebook page clearly indicates that he fully shared the views of the settlers which he was guarding.

On Thursday morning I did not yet know what happened in Hebron when I went to see the Purim Adloyada in Holon. Actually, the large crowd gathered there did not dwell too much on the Book of Esther and whether it is the humanist or the nationalist interpretations which should be preferred. For the inhabitants of Holon, a predominantly lower middle class city south of Tel Aviv, Purim is primarily an occasion for holding a carnival and walk the street in a great variety of colorful costumes and masks. One by one, dinosaurs and scary monsters paraded through the main street. When a monster bent down towards the bystanders, revealing rows of sharp fangs, the children screamed in fear – only to burst into laughter when a child riding on the back of the tyrannosaur waved to them.

"We welcome the Israel Police who came here in great numbers to defend us and allow us to celebrate, safe from all threats. We especially welcome Police Commissioner Ronnie Alsheich who honors the Adloyada with his presence" boomed the speaker. I looked at the kids dressed up along the sidewalk. Among the superheroes and their friends the kings, fairies and pirates, I saw a significant number of children in blue or black police uniforms. On the other hand, unlike previous years there were hardly any young soldiers. Only one girl aged three or four was wearing a military uniform, her shoulder badges declaring her to be a Lieutenant General...

On the sidewalk, a makeshift stall offered toys for sale. The vendor was moving to the music from the speakers and displaying his wares - a large, black, menacing submachine gun in one hand and a soap bubble tank in the other. From what I could see during the quarter of an hour that I stood there, it was mainly the soap bubbles which interested the customers...

From there I went to Tel Aviv, to a Protest Adloyada held in solidarity with CO Ta’ir Kaminer, who had been going into the military prison and out and in again and again ever since declaring her refusal to join an army of occupation charged with oppressing the Palestinians. She had already gone through this process three times. This weekend she is supposed to be released from prison, to spend two days with her parents and Sunday to return to the Induction Center – there once again get the order to let herself be inducted and mobilized, again inform the officer in charge of her refusal and again go to prison for another month. Until the army gets tired of this...

In the call for this action which circulated on the Internet, the organizers said: "This Purim we are going to hold an Adloyada to cheer Ta’ir up and support her – all the way! You are invited, please come in costume. You can dress up as your favorite Chief of Staff of the World’s Most Moral Army! Bring with you masks, rattles, funny hats, glitter and a holiday spirit". To tell the truth, not all participants followed this script, many of them in plain clothes without Purim costumes. Some activists, though, painted their faces very bright white and stood behind symbolic prison bars. For their part, members of the Anarchist Drumming Band, firmly opposed to any state authority, wrapped their drums with bright red police ribbons bearing the inscription "Police! Passage Absolutely Forbidden! ".

There were artistic performances by a Palestinian rapper from East Jerusalem and an Israeli youth who sang protest songs and played the guitar. Micah Kaminer, father of Ta’ir, spoke from an improvised podium, followed by Ayden Katri, a young transgender girl who is herself due next week to report at the Induction Center and who also intends to give notice of her refusal to enlist.

"We came here to pay homage to a brave young woman, who conducts a struggle there, alone within the prison wall, in order to continue following the dictates of her conscience," said MK Dov Hanin. "Contrary to what all kinds of politicians and commentators try to tell us, those who follow their conscience do not constitute a threat to the fabric of Israeli society. The true danger of that comes from blind obedience to immoral orders!

"Occupation, that occupation which we were told can be 'managed' and made tolerable, is now exploding in our faces. There can be no security with occupation, there is no hope with occupation, no future with occupation! [Applause]. We have seen the face of the occupation in the horrible footage which today came out of Hebron. This video is not about one heinous act by one single soldier. The true culprit can be found much higher, among the politicians openly calling for lynching, calling for people to be killed even when they no longer pose a threat. Israeli society must do a thorough soul-searching, to realize the terrible direction in which we are moving without paying notice. Ta’ir is in jail for all our sakes, she does it in order to give a warning sign to the society in which we live."

At the last moment, organizers managed to establish direct contact with Ta’ir Kaminer herself, speaking from the public phone in the prison yard and her words broadcast over the loudspeaker: "Thank you very much! The last time I went through the army’s Disciplinary Proceeding, the officer told me 'It is very nice of your friends to accompany you to our gate, but now they are going back home and you are going to jail, you are going all alone in jail. But it is not true. I know we're all together in this. We all stand together, I am in prison and you are with me on the outside. Thank you very much! "

Purim or not Purim - the Palestinian clown and circus artist Mohammed Abu Sakha continues to languish in Israeli prison, under Administrative Detention without trial. Nine years ago, when he was 14, Mohammed Abu Sakha enrolled at "Circus Palestine". Four years later he was already a proficient circus artist and became a teacher in the same school; a bachelor, he lives in a house adjacent to the circus school, and he works day and night.. He performed in the West Bank and abroad and worked to help people with special needs – adults and especially children. He wrote a book describing how circus arts can be used in teaching children with special needs. This he put into practice with hundreds of children who regularly come to the circus in order to have a bit of respite from a harsh reality and enter – even if only for a few hours - a magical wonderful world. His friends say that children who were unable to walk made their first steps with his help.

Today, Abu Sakha can no longer reach the circus, and the special children's program was closed down in the absence of a replacement. In December 2015, Abu Sakha went to visit his parents in the Jenin area. When the taxi passed through the Za'atara Checkpoint, he was detained by soldiers who made a random search, taken off the car and into custody. Shortly afterwards, a warrant was issued for his Administrative Detention without trial, and since then he is held in the Megiddo prison. The Shabak Security Service’a spokesperson asserted that Abu Sha had been detained due to "recently updated information regarding his being active in the Popular Front organization" and because of "the danger he poses to security in the region" - but did not produce any evidence to substantiate these allegations, or any specific charges as to any acts which Abu Sakha allegedly committed or planned.

In the court session where his Administrative Detention was approved, Abu Sakha said: "I am an artist in a circus. I'm a clown. I've traveled a lot in Europe and I have seen many people, Palestinians, Israelis, Americans. I have no intention to commit any violent acts. Even on Facebook I have a lot of friends from different cultures . I work in Ramallah as a circus clown, and with the circus we travel around Europe. I am also a social worker in a voluntary organization". The Shabak representative in the hearing refused to hand over to Abu Sakha, or to his attorney Mahmoud Halabi, any details of charges against him, which remain completely secret. The Administrative Detention was approved by the judge, in force until June 2016 (and subject to indefinite extension at the Shabak’s discretion).

There was a worldwide wave of protests by circus people – "a snowball" as one of his friends put it. "We contacted circuses where he had been invited to perform, and they sprung into action. For example, Abu Sakha had undergone circus training at Toulouse in South France, and they took up his case immediately after hearing what happened." Among other things, a special Facebook page was set up, where circus performers from around the world posted their creative protests. Making street performances, jumping on a pole or doing other acrobatic exercises – all while carrying the sign "Free Abu Sakha!". Some uploaded videos of the protest in their own circus, and American indie singer David Rovics wrote a song about him ( "He could have been a fighter, like many of his friends... but he chose to become a circus artist, work hard and delight children!"). Amnesty International called his immediate release. The protest organizers are planning a big demonstration of circus artists in London, to be followed in other capitals as long as his Administrative Detention continues.

Also in Israel, some circus artists organized to demonstrate and protest. "We already held two demonstrations on Abu Sakha’s behalf, one in front of Megiddo Prison where he is held, the other at the Ofer Detention Center which is focus of the wholesale detentions carried out by the occupation authorities," says Hanita Handelman. For many years already, she is running multicultural social projects at the Kfar Yehoshua Circus School, in order to bring Jews and Arabs closer together. 
"We conducted a spontaneous performance at the prison parking lot" she told. "It was a bit amusing to see the artists toss circus rods back and forth, in the air above the cops’ heads. Of course, in the demonstration call we made a reference to Purim, and once there we tried to create a bit of a Purim atmosphere - though the case is far from funny."

As of now, the Supreme Court of the State of Israel only agrees to release Palestinian Administrative Detainees in cases where they go on prolonged hunger strikes and bring themselves to the verge of death or of irreversible brain damage. And so far, Mohammed Abu Sakha has not taken such measures.

In a message from prison, Abu Sakha says: "I'm holding on, and I try to amuse my fellow prisoners."


Saturday, November 28, 2015

So what is to be done?

"This is the fight of Civilization against Barbarism!" declared Prime Minister Netanyahu to his distinguished guest, US Secretary of State John Kerry. "The whole world is under attack by radical Islamists and the forces of terror. Israel is ever at war with these terrorists. The entire international community should support our efforts - it's not just our struggle, it is everybody’s struggle". Do they get the point at last, these Americans and Europeans? Maybe this time they finally realize what they did not understand after September 11 and after Charlie Hebdo? Maybe they will finally accept that Israel stands at the forefront of the West’s Clash of Civilizations with Islamic Barbarism? Will they at last stand foursquare behind us and stop all this stupid nagging about the Palestinians and the occupation and the settlements?

No, also this time it did not happen. True, the American visitor did express complete support for Israel's right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists wielding knives or scissors. However, he also asked Israel to make goodwill gesture to help build confidence and calm the situation, for example granting building permits to Palestinian villages which hitherto saw frequent visits by Israeli bulldozers destroying "illegal houses". And when Netanyahu wanted to counter-balance building permits to Palestinians by also legitimizing Israeli construction in "settlement blocs" the immediate response from Washington left no room for doubt: "The answer is – one big NO" followed by "The United States government has never supported of defended the construction of settlements, nor gave them legitimacy. Democratic and Republican Administrations alike regarded the Israeli as acts undermining the two-state solution ".

And what of the Europeans? After all, the ISIS attack on Paris took place exactly forty-eight hours after the EU resolved to label the settlement products offered to European consumers. What is this, have they no regrets? Did they not sober up? Even after what happened in Paris, do they not understand that they should line up with Israel and forget all this settlements nonsense? Alas, no. President Hollande declared that France is at war with ISIS and sent his war planes to join the Russians in the heavy bombing in Syria. Nevertheless, he still expects Israel to emulate France, which already more than fifty years ago gave up its rule in an Arab country called Algeria and removed more than a million French settlers from there. As the British left India and the Dutch quitted Indonesia and the Belgians gave up Congo, they all expect from Israel to grant independence to its colony in the West Bank. In Brussels, Belgium's capital city which was this week paralyzed with apprehension of a new terrorist attack, is located The Belgian Tropical Museum - a museum which a few years ago underwent a thorough change of display and orientation, becoming dedicated to documenting the crimes of Belgian colonialism.

So, the world does not forget the Palestinians and the occupation and the settlements, it always pops up again, and Israeli diplomats and politicians must rush here and there and try to put out the brushfires. Here, the American Anthropological Association decided to boycott Israeli academia as long as it cooperates with the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. And then a Berlin department store which was founded by Jews and confiscated by the Nazis and is now owned by a Thai corporation decided to remove settlement products from the shelves - but it was possible to reverse this by a massive dose of Holocaust evocation and an overwhelming appeal to the German feeling of guilt. And now the British Labor Party decided to boycott the international security company G4S because of their involvement with the incarceration of Palestinians in Israel (as well as "dodgy deals" in other parts of the world…).

But as of now, such things constitute no more than pinpricks from Netanyahu’s point of view. The world has not forgotten the Palestinians - but they are also not really a priority, when politicians and generals and security officials are scurrying among so many other crises. At least in the near future, no one is going to subject Netanyahu to unbearable pressure. During seven years of his presidency, there were several instances in which Obama seemed on the verge of a head-on confrontation with Netanyahu - and he always backed off at the last minute. Only once did the President of the United States go through with it - and that was not over the Palestinians, but about the deal with Iran. In that instance, Obama acted most determined and resolute towards both Netanyahu and Netanyahu's supporters in Congress, utterly routing all opposition. Resting on the laurels of this victory, Obama came to the conclusion that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would not come to an end during his tenure, and that the maximum which could be done would be "damage control".

But apparently, Secretary of State Kerry could not achieve even that much. Netanyahu made it clear that there will be no good will gestures towards the Palestinians until the "Intifada of the Knives" come to an end. And of course, even if all Palestinians were to keep completely calm, a settlement freeze would never be on the agenda. But if the violence were to stop, it is possible that the Prime Minister would care to look in his hat for some gestures to pull out, benefitting Palestinians in their daily lives. What exactly? Well, first of all they should stop their terrorism, violence and incitement, than we'll see.

And what about these pesky Palestinians who do not belong to any organization and are not controlled by anyone, and who one by one, day after day, are ready to take a knife (or a pair of scissors), and take action which would probably end in death or serious injury? Most likely, they had not even paid any attention to the attenuated media reports of the Israeli PM’s meeting with the US secretary of state.

And so, the wheel of bloodshed continues to roll, every day brings its own heroes and heroines, villains and villainesses to their moment in the limelight (and who is a hero and who the villain? That depends, of course, which side of the conflict publishes the story...).

The 18-year-old Mohammed Tarda of Yatir village near Hebron went to the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat, stabbed and wounded four Israelis in the streets. The 13 year old Liam Yutko, who was stabbed, was able to bandage herself and the Israeli meida praised her resourcefulness. The Palestinian 16-year-old Ashaqat Qatanani of Nablus arrived at the Huwara junction south of Nablus and took out a knife, the settler leader Gershon Masika who happened to be there ran her over with his car and knocked her to the ground, and before she could get up a soldier and a settler shot and killed her. The 21-year old Hadar Buchris, who recently moved from Safed in north Israel to one of the Gush Etzion settlements on the West Bank, was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus at the junction near the settlement. The attacker, 34-year old Wissam Tawabte, from the nearby village of Beit Fajar, was immediately shot and killed by soldiers. Newspaper front pages on the next day carried the photo of Buchris during a recent trip to India, a beautiful girl at the beach in Goa. The next day came two Palestinian girls from Kalandia Refugeee Camp, the 14-year-old Norhan Awwad and her 16-year old cousin Hadeel Awwad, went to the Mahane Yehuda Market in central Jerusalem and tried to stab passersby with their scissors. Hadeel was shot by a police officer and killed on the spot, and Norhan seriously injured. "Little girl terrorists" was how the headlines in the Israeli press dismissed the affair. It turned out that Hadeel’s elder brother was two years ago struck in the head by a "rubber bullet" fired by Israeli soldiers and died after nine months in coma. Later that day, the Israeli soldier Ziv Mizachi was stabbed to death at a gas station on Route 443, which links Jerusalem to Tel Aviv by way of the West Bank. It turned out that Ziv's uncle had been killed 12 years ago in the bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant. And so on and so on, event following upon event, day by day and sometimes hour by hour, dead Israelis and wounded Israelis, dead Palestinians and wounded ones (at much bigger numbers). The heroes of one side being the villains of the other, making it very difficult to follow and remember what happened when. And just now, as I sit here at the computer and write this article, a Palestinian car ran over six soldiers at the entrance to the refugee camp of Beit Ummar between Bethlehem and Hebron, the soldiers being injured and the Palestinian driver immediately shot dead. As usual, Israeli media summed up with the usual formulation: "The terrorist was neutralized."

So what is to be done? The Army’s high command decided it is no longer a "wave of terrorism" but "a limited uprising". "Limited", because as yet not all Palestinians are participating, the attacks carried on mainly by individuals who usually do not belong to any organization and who in many cases appear to have decided on the action just a few hours before. It is still possible, according to the army, to "contain" this uprising by undertaking – in parallel with "pinpoint" acts of repression – also some good will to the general Palestinian population. The army also recommends strengthening the Palestinian Authority by providing weapons and armored vehicles. All these recommendations were rejected out of hand by Netanyahu and his ministers.

Unlike the military commanders, who still regard the Palestinian Authority and its security forces as a trusted ally, the government tends to point to the PA as "The Main Inciter" and accuse the Palestinian TV and radio of urging Palestinian youths to go out on the streets with knives in their hands. Reportedly, some of Netanyahu’s ministers "would not be sorry to see the Palestinian Authority collapse." Paradoxically, such expectations on the right-wing flank of the Israeli cabinet intersect with the attitude of growing parts of the Palestinian society, who would like the PA to be dismantled or at least put an end to its security cooperation with the Israeli army, considered to be an act of collaboration with the occupation.

In yesterday’s morning news bulletin on the radio, senior army commanders were quoted as saying that the killing of Palestinians should be minimized, since any such killing is fueling the flames of insurrection and revolt and threatens to turn it into a general conflagration – by its explicit name, an intifada. "When a child tries to stab with scissors and is trembling with fear, it is enough to kick her or at most shoot her in the leg. There is no need to pierce her with ten consecutive bullets" said the unnamed senior commander. But if such is the intention of the senior commanders, they seem unable to make it clear to the lower echelons, the soldiers on the ground.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the B’Tselem Human Rights group, wrote to Netnayhau: "Your government permits – and encourages – the transformation of police officers, and even of armed civilians, into judges and executioners. The disparity between words and actions is a stark one. It has been claimed that there has been no change in open-fire regulations and that security forces are employing reasonable force not exceeding that required to thwart perpetrators. It is ostensibly taken for granted that it is unlawful to shoot an injured person who poses no danger. Yet in practice, [your] full support for the documented instances of unlawful killing reflects a completely different reality and grants it legitimacy. During your term of office, a new pseudo-normative reality has effectively emerged, in which a "shoot to kill" approach must always be adopted, no matter the circumstances, even when the suspect no longer poses any danger whatsoever. This reality is a direct consequence of inflammatory statements by senior members of your government, who draw support from your silence. The upshot is that there can only be one outcome in cases that combine an individual with Arab appearance and a knife: execution on the street."

Yesterday afternoon some 300 Israelis and Palestinian held a joint march along the "Tunnel Road", which was built with a huge investment of resources for the use of the Gush Etzion settlers. For an hour they marched to the sound of drums, chanting slogans against settlements and occupation, against violence and in support of Jewish-Arab cooperation. At the concluding rally, next to the military checkpoint, activist Meital Lukov of "Combatants for Peace" said: We are living in a difficult period, innocent people are dying every day and it is hard to see an end to these events. But we must not lose heart. The right thing, the right response, is what we are doing here, To stand together, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. To find a common ground and build a common future, to break the cycle of violence and create a new tomorrow."

Mohammad Barakeh, former Knesset Member and head of the Monitoring Committee, leadership body of Israel’s Arab citizens, noted that the vehicular attack by a Palestinian on soldiers, and the attackers subsequent killing, had taken place a short time before the march, just a few kilometers down the same highway. "We don’t want a single drop of blood to be spilt," Barakeh said, "but he who creates this situation needs to understand that only peace will bring security. The blockade, the checkpoints, the abuse, the settlements — they are the root cause of all that is happening here. We stand together and condemn this extremist government. We stand in support of life in peace – life in peace both for the State of Israel and for the independent Palestinian state to be established."

Photographer: Mustafa Bader