Playing your role: A Middle East peace drama
Op-ed: Actor Jason Alexander explains his decision to help resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Middle East is a very difficult stage to play upon. Without doubt, it is a good drama. And on occasion, there are situations so unimaginable, if not ludicrous, as to make them almost comic. But the cast is constantly changing, the audience is often disengaged and it seems at times that no one is actually running the show. So, how does one find their role?
On May 16, I will be joining a panel of experts organized by the OneVoice Movement at 92Y in New York City to explore this very point. We will discuss what civil society can do to rekindle and fuel the hopes for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. I am, by no means, one of those experts. Nor need I be to understand the importance of this cause and the value of participation from people in all walks of life – both directly engaged in this conflict and supporting from the outside.
I found that looking at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from an outside vantage point was actually quite distancing. The history of the conflict, the personalities, the violence, the distrust, and the seeming lack of viable solutions made meaningful involvement feel impossible. What changed that, for me, was changing the vantage point.
I’ve visited the region several times, many with OneVoice during delegation trips, and each time my interest and activism in this conflict increased because I not only saw and heard with my own eyes and ears, but through those living the conflict daily.
Event number one: While visiting a kibbutz in the north of Israel, I learned of an interesting exchange during a security patrol. The kibbutz is situated on a hill at the bottom of which sits an Arab village in Lebanon. Despite the ongoing struggles, the kibbutz and the village had been good neighbors – sharing resources, celebrating each other’s holidays and generally looking out for each other. Then, a fundamentalist group came into the village and forcefully took over day-to-day operations.
Voice of humanity
To the outside observer, the two environments were now deadly enemies. One night on patrol, the security team for the kibbutz encountered an elderly man from the village who was about to fire two mortar rockets into the kibbutz. The team confiscated the rockets and then realized that they all knew this man. They reminded him of how they had all been such good neighbors, how their children all played together, of how they had spent many happy times together and then asked the man why he now hated them so much that he would attack them. The elderly man answered, “I don’t hate you. There is no work. There is no income. The fundamentalists pay me seventy-five dollars for each rocket I fire at an Israeli target. For one hundred and fifty dollars, I can support my family for six months. I cannot say no. But I have no hatred for you. In fact, give me the rockets and give me the one hundred fifty dollars and I will fire at the fundamentalists”. This “conflict of ideologies” was no such thing. This was a desperate act of survival.
Event number two occurred in Los Angeles in the mid-90s. OneVoice founders and board members Daniel Lubetzky and Mohammad Darawshe had come to talk about their vision for a new path to peace for Israel and Palestine. I was dubious. I thought this was merely an appeal for money that would be thrown cavalierly at an impossible project. But during their presentation, Mohammad spoke about why he chose to devote himself to OneVoice. He spoke of his young son, Fadi, and of how remarkable this boy’s dedication to goals had been. Fadi had promised his father that he would be the top student in his class, and succeeded. He promised he would be captain of the soccer team, and succeeded. And then one day, he came to his father and promised that he was going to be a martyr. He was twelve years old. Mohammad then spoke of how he would stop at nothing to make this goal one that his son would never keep. And as he was weeping, so was I. Mohammad was a father. I was a father. His child was my child. And I had to help.
Those are the stories that do not get told in this conflict. We on the outside do not get these glimpses of reality. We see and hear about Israelis and Palestinians only when they are defined by the global media as “occupiers,” “terrorists,” and “victims.” But we forget that they are fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and neighbors and doctors and shop-owners and farmers and students. It is those roles, those definitions that make possible the name of the organization I support – OneVoice. Because in those roles of family and community and shared interests, we do all speak with one voice – our voice of humanity.
At 92Y, OneVoice is unveiling its new strategic vision, the “Peoples’ Blueprint.” OneVoice is creating activists out of everyday people and forging links with local, national, and global stakeholders to create positive facts on the ground toward a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. They are playing their role by jump starting the political process from the ground-up.
Though we may be actors in an important drama, we do know the difference between dreams and reality. The ever-shifting realities in the Middle East have been altering the plot lines of our story for a long time. But they do not change the ending. The grand finale can and must be a spectacular and happy ending. There is simply no other choice. And we can either play no role or some role. To play none is a dangerous choice and a dishonorable one.
So, with my concluding lines, may I implore you to see beyond the stereotypes and the news bites? Good men and women are struggling for their futures, their dignities, and their security. We have a role to play, no matter how small. I have taken a part, but this cast is large. And the players need you. It is a great story. You really shouldn’t miss it.
Petitioning All intelligent entities of goodwill – including the entire human race.
End the Madness
Petition by Peter Dunn, Manchester, United Kingdom
Thousands of Israelis attend alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv
Peace-oriented group holds its eighth yearly ceremony; out of the thousands in attendance, only 44 were Palestinian.
Thousands of people seeking a Memorial Day alternative to the lyric tenor of the chief military cantor came to the Tel Aviv fairgrounds Sunday night for a Jewish-Palestinian memorial service.
This is the eighth year in which the group Combatants for Peace has staged the ceremony, and attendance has been growing from year to year. An hour before it was due to start, hundreds of people were already waiting in line for a security check before entering the fairgrounds. The line for a cup of coffee took 10 minutes. Pavilion 10’s 1,780 square meters were packed to the gills, and outside, an additional crowd of people huddled around a closed-circuit television that was broadcasting the ceremony. It reminded me of the way Arab and Jewish combatants in Lebanon huddled around the television to watch the World Cup during the 1982 Lebanon War.
But of the thousands of people in attendance, only 44 were Palestinians. The Civil Administration in the West Bank dragged out the process of granting entry permits for weeks, and in the end, under pressure from politicians, rejected most of the 109 applicants, granting permits only to 44 of them.
The ceremony opened with a parade of Palestinians, each telling a bit about themselves and about the difficulty of obtaining an entry permit. Nur al-Shehadeh, from Samu, sent a videotaped speech.
“Today is Memorial Day, the day the Israeli people remembers its victims,” he said. “But there are also Palestinian victims. Enough. We must learn a lesson. I hope that this day will serve as an engine for vigorous action to achieve peace.”
Hiyar, a resident of Nablus, arrived with a friend and an ancient camera. “We came because neither people wants the occupation; both want peace and security,” he said. He was insulted to be asked how he could attend a ceremony marking the day on which Israelis memorialize some of the soldiers who occupied his land. “We need to end the violence, Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “Soldiers are people, too. How many more wars do you want?”
The Jewish participants, unlike at most left-wing events, included a sizable number of young people who, despite the opposition of their environment, were attracted by the approach of Combatants for Peace, with its emphasis on full Jewish-Arab partnership. One of the speakers, Neta, described her upbringing in a right-wing family from Jerusalem that educated her not to trust Arabs. She told of the personal price she has paid for participating in the ceremony: Her best friend since age 5, whose brother was killed in the army, is no longer speaking to her.
Also present was former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg. “Memorial Day is the result of wars,” he said. “Wars don’t happen by themselves. Anyone who wants to escape the cycle of war and reach a different place must respect the other side’s victims. The margins have begun moving toward the center. What this means is that Israelis and Palestinians together want to remember their dead and stop the killing. There are thousands more like these throughout the country, if not tens of thousands, who want to look into the heart of things rather than at their demagogic wrapping.”
Over the past few days, an Internet petition was organized asking the Tel Aviv municipality to prevent the ceremony, but the city ignored it. A small demonstration took place outside the pavilion, comprising some 20 youngsters who wrapped themselves in Israeli flags and began chanting “We won’t let you scorn the memory of the fallen,” but soon moved on to yelling “Nazis!” They dispersed peacefully soon afterward.
OR …. The Jimmy Carter Protests That Weren’t
After Uproar, No One Shows To Protest Jimmy Carter At Yeshiva University
All the hype about the decision by students at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law to honor Jimmy Carter ended with a whimper today, not a bang. Carter received the International Advocate for Peace, bestowed by a student-run journal, without any of the hoopla one might expect from the controversy generated by the announcement that he would receive the honor. As the award ceremony commenced, not a single protester could be found. The event, which had supposedly caused uproar in the Jewish world, proved to be nothing more than angry online rhetoric from Cardozo’s pool of hawkish pro-Israel alumni.
As I waited outside of the Cardozo building, several reporters, mostly from Jewish newspapers, commiserated. Cardozo alumni had declared their willingness to stop Carter from entering the building. “Mr. Carter ain’t going to get anywhere,” one of the alumni blustered, according to the Forward. But bluster was all it was: Carter entered and left the building without incident. “Anti-Carter protestors are a no-show at Cardozo award scene. Not even one,” tweeted Haaretz‘s Chemi Shalev from the scene. “Other than a few pro-Carterites and one foul- mouthed anti-Semite, all quiet as students file into Cardozo hall for Carter ceremony.”
Carter’s honor received growing media attention this past week, even rising to stories in two major national newspapers today. The New York Times reported that tensions ran high ”because Cardozo is a part of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution where support for the state of Israel runs high. And among supporters of Israel, there are few figures more controversial than Mr. Carter, who has repeatedly criticized Israeli policy toward Palestinians and described their circumstances as apartheid.”
None of the hawkish Yeshiva supporter apparently believed that it was worthwhile to actually show up. The plans to protest fell apart just before Carter arrived for the ceremony. Michael Osborne, a pro-Israel advocate and sophomore at Yeshiva’s Sy Syms School of Business, tried organizing a rally against the ceremony. “Unfortunately, the event was in the middle of the day, and students couldn’t leave class to protest,” he said. Osborne claims to have been in contact with Cardozo alumni who “simply didn’t come through in the end.”
Ben Winter, a senior at Yeshiva College, claims that YU’s students are ultimately unwilling to physically volunteer themselves for pro-Israel causes. “While many students at YU feel strongly about their Zionism, few have the courage to publicly express their opinions,” he said.
One wonders how the media will react to the next pro-Israel uproar at Yeshiva University. Judging from the disappointment that myself and the others journalists felt at the anti-climax, I highly doubt it will.
Farewell to a freedom fighter
Remembering Rabbi Menachem Froman, the one of a kind, idiosyncratic settler rebbe, whose calls for peace were embraced by religious and secular alike.
“Come and meet me in chemo,” he suggested. “There’s lots of time to pass there.” I knew Rabbi Menachem Froman, who passed away this week, for seven years, during which I realized that in order to connect with him, really connect with him – you had to play the game or give up in advance. To play as he did: to immerse yourself in it entirely, with profound seriousness, and never to forget the irony. That was the only way to touch Rabbi Froman’s crazy theater, to understand a single scene from a ramified, exciting and problematic play.
Even when I insisted on rules and limits, he had different plans. Until the first interview, in 2006, he didn’t know me at all. He asked me to pick him up in the evening from the Moussaieff Synagogue in Jerusalem, so that we could drive to his home in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa and conduct an orderly interview – with a notebook and recording device – about his desire to conduct negotiations with the Hamas government that had just been established in the Gaza Strip.
The prayers at the synagogue took a long time (that year, he took it upon himself to say Kaddish three times a day for left-wing leader Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, who had just passed away ). And after that he convinced me to accompany him on a nighttime shopping excursion for shoes, replacing ones that had torn. There was no interview that night. The notebook stayed in my bag even when we finally arrived in Tekoa, but there was a story and a meeting.
So when he suggested that we meet in the oncology department of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem while he was receiving chemotherapy treatment, it somehow sounded reasonable. The soundtrack was the annoying beep of medical equipment, but the rabbi was focused. Alive, sharp, in a great mood. “Are you nauseous?” asked a nurse, interrupting the conversation. The reply was a joke and a kabbalistic midrash that dragged her into the conversation, too.
In general, that period – the winter of 2011 – was in many senses a high point. His body was riddled with cancer, which had in effect gone out of control, but Froman’s life looked like a huge trance party with lights and colors. The local cultural elite – headed by those he dubbed “the chief rabbis of the left,” writers Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua – doffed their hats to him, and all came to Tel Aviv’s Tzavta Theater for the occasion of the establishment of his movement, Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace ). The media covered the event and finally granted recognition to the rabbi who had always been considered a strange bird.
However, his meetings with leftists and Muslim leaders – which were always good photo-ops – diverted attention from the real revolution led by Rabbi Froman, which was actually more successful in terms of results. It was a revolution among the Jewish public rather than one aimed at the Middle East.
Froman led a revolutionary religious stream whose members participated in his funeral by the thousands this week. The main impetus for this movement, although not the only one, were the gatherings he called “Torah-Shira.” What began six or seven years ago in a small Tekoa synagogue or in his home – a lesson in the basic book of kabbala, the Zohar, accompanied by songs – turned into a powerful force during the years of his illness.
The hard core were his students from the neo-Hasidic Tekoa Yeshiva or the Shefa Institute for Judaic Studies in Jerusalem. When his illness began, the movement expanded to include hundreds of young people from the settlements, and then to broader religious circles – both urban and rural – as well as secular people who somehow ended up there. There was nothing exclusive about these encounters. You could join no matter how you looked and what you believed. Not all the thousands who came to these meetings over the years were members of Eretz Shalom.
Man of action
Because of his political and spiritual views, Rabbi Froman was for years considered “the village clown.” During the years of his illness, although he made no changes to his philosophy – on the contrary, he reinforced it to the point of supporting a binational state – half the village joined him. The gatherings grew and became increasingly sophisticated, largely thanks to his son, Shivi, who was his producer, with leading artists lining up to join in. The evening before our chemo meeting, the Mifal Hapayis Building in Tekoa was full to bursting with 600 or more people in a study session, with Rabbi Froman accompanied by singer Eviatar Banai.
“Many of my lifelong dreams are coming true these days,” he said, as the poison dripped into his body. “I’ve always thought that Torah and song should be brought together. I call it Torah-Shira. Song creates freedom, it creates wings. I have an entire philosophy about that based on the Zohar. So every week a different singer comes. Eviatar, Kobi Oz, Shlomo Bar, Berry Sakharof, Micha Shitrit, Ehud Banai, Erez Lev Ari. Every week is different. Every singer is different, all wings are different. I sit there next to the singers and think ‘What will I give to G-d?’”
Although he was a profound speaker, Froman was first and foremost an actor. Blogger Amit Assis wrote this week that he was “a man of action” – one of those people “whose religious revelation was not expressed in ready-made ideas about what’s forbidden and what’s permitted, and regular forms of prayer, but existed in the body, the soul, in action.”
During that same meeting in chemo, Froman said that the young people who follow in his footsteps are “not a generation that speaks, but a generation that lives. The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, says the Zohar … the Tree of Knowledge is the world of speech. When you know and speak, the Tree of Life is above speech.”
Froman’s movement flourished during a period of extremism, and said a great deal about his personality. Price tag acts of retribution? Froman’s disciples might have looked like hilltop youth, but these were the beautiful and refined ones who play music and sing and embrace and love. Indeed, during our encounters in the settlements, nobody was armed.
“I’ve been saying for years that the goal of Zionism is the feminization of the Jewish religion, changing it from masculine to feminine,” he said. “This wave of life, this undefined wave, is the hope of a free religion in Judaism’s future – not of peace or politics, which can be a by-product. Everyone searches for the source of the commandment to get married. They can’t find a verse, so they say ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ I say that’s a mistake. The main thing is to love, that’s where children come from. Not that the purpose of love is children – that’s a by-product, and by-products are always less than the event itself.”
While we were talking, he said he was beginning to understand why he chose to add to his name “Hai Shalom” (Life Peace ) a few days earlier, in order to help his recovery, making his full name Menachem Hai Shalom Froman. “Explain why I called myself Hai Shalom, because peace will grow out of life. How? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Other things will grow, including a new religion. A living, liberated religion, not people who look at the Shulhan Arukh and frame everything according to what is written there. You know that the Zohar identifies halakha [Jewish religious law] with the Tree of Knowledge, but the Zohar is the Tree of Life. That’s what it says about itself. A new spirituality, neither religious nor secular, neither right nor left. It has no actual form, except to remain free.
“The movement we established is called Eretz Shalom mainly because it sounds good in Arabic – ‘Ard al-Salam,’” he continued. “But the intimate name I use is not Eretz Shalom, it’s Eretz Hahofesh [Land of Freedom]. The entire issue of peace is religious freedom, to become liberated. At the end of the event with Kobi Oz, I had the audience stand up and we sang ‘Hatikva’ with an emphasis on the line ‘To be a free people in our land.’ It was very powerful. He gave this Tel Aviv-style performance – don’t ask! – in Tekoa, and after the performance I said Kobi: ‘I thank you for introducing freedom into the religious world, you are bringing me close to the vision of Zionism, to be a free people in our land.’ And we sang, we stood and sang ‘Hatikva.’ I was really moved.”
The chemo was over. The outpatient clinic emptied out and his oldest son, Yossi – who always sat next to him at Torah-Shira evenings – came to drive him home.
“We have to leave. You’re the last one,” said his son. “I’m the last one? I’m the last of the Mohicans.”
Last Sunday Rabbi Menachem Froman was lying on the bed in his home, unconscious. He had less than 24 hours left. Outside the modest house, some of his regular Sunday students had gathered. The lesson was taught by others instead of Rabbi Froman, and his son Yossi sat with them. “Every Sunday was preparation for this Sunday,” Yossi said.
They studied the chapter in the Zohar in which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai plans to leave the world, surrounded by his students. Between passages, Froman’s students played, sang and danced. The sounds burst into the house as he slept. At the end of the evening, Yossi invited anyone who so desired to stand before his father and say farewell.
I preferred to remember his ironic smile.
As I write this, Rabbi Menachem Froman, Chief Rabbi of the settlement Tekoa is being lowered into his grave at the settlement which he helped found. He died last night at the young age of 68 after a long battle with cancer. Rabbi Froman was a unique man, a man of peace in a land of war. His voice, his views, his love for his fellow man will be missed.
When asked what he would like to leave behind as his legacy, Froman answered with one word: “Peace.”
Rabbi Menachem Froman of West Bank settlement Tekoa dies at 68
Froman dies following prolonged illness; he was unique among settler rabbis in that he was a leading proponent of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
Rabbi Menachem Froman died on Monday at the age of 68, following a prolonged illness.
Froman, rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, was unique among settler rabbis in that he was a leading proponent of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue as far back as the 1980s, when contact with the PLO was still illegal. He was the spiritual leader of many young people and was known for his extensive contacts with people from a wide range of ideological circles. He was in constant contact with politicians, military leaders and in particular artists including writers, musicians and actors. More recently, he championed the idea of dialogue between Jewish and Islamic religious leaders as a path to peace, in which context he held intensive talks with religious leaders from both Hamas and Israel’s Islamic Movement.
In recent years, Froman launched several religious peace organizations. He also developed close ties with a wide range of people who spanned the political and ideological gamut, including army officers, politicians and, above all, creative artists from the worlds of literature, music and theater.
Froman suffered from cancer of the large intestine and is survived by his wife, Hadassah, and 10 children. He was born in Kfar Hasidim near Haifa. He went to high school at the Reali School in Haifa, served in the paratroopers during the Six-Day War and after the army gradually became more and more religious. He began studying in various yeshivot including Merkaz Harav alongside a number of other students who, like Froman, became the leaders of the settler movement Gush Emunim. He was ordained as a rabbi by former Chief Rabbis Shlomo Goren and Avraham Shapira. He served as the rabbi of Kibbutz Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion.
He was one of the founders of Tekoa and helped make the settlement a mixed community of religious and nonreligious centered around a mixed school run by his wife Hadassah.
Photo by Ilya Melnikov Menachem and Hadassah Froman.
He was a self-proclaimed nonconformist among the rabbis of the territories, and paid a price for it. In the 1980s, after the Jewish terrorist underground was exposed and the first intifada began, Froman came out openly in favor of a dialogue with Palestinian leaders as well as granting political rights and national symbols to the Palestinian people. Many in Gush Emunim tried to remove him from the organization and his post.
During the second intifada he traveled throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and even went to Jordan, speaking to Palestinian leaders, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Mahmoud Al-Zahar from Hamas. He became more politically active in his last years, leading movements of young settlers who did not hesitate to criticize the occupation. Froman saw no contradiction between the settlements and striving for peace, and often said “the settlements are the fingers of the Israeli hand held out for peace.” He saw the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as mainly religious and saw a common bond with Islamic religious leaders. He viewed the nationalist-territorial conflict as secondary and did not rule out the continued existence of the settlements under Palestinian sovereignty.
As a rabbi, he concentrated mostly on Hassidic and mystical literature. He taught in yeshivot that were forerunners of the Hassidic wave in religious Zionist circles.
He cooperated with other rabbis known for their independent thinking, such as Adin Steinsaltz and Shimon Gershon Rosenberg, better known as Rav Shagar.
In an interview with Ayelett Shani in Haaretz Magazine last July, Froman said that he was willing to live under Palestinian sovereignty.
“I met with someone who is very close to the prime minister, and he told me that the solution I am proposing is also the solution he has envisaged for years, from the political viewpoint, and that he is working to persuade the prime minister,” he told Haaretz.
“We came to Tekoa to take part in that: to participate in the establishment of a mixed community. With the intention that I want to learn, to receive. I do not want to give. I do not work for my truth. I work for the sake of the general truth, the objective truth. In the final analysis, the question is whether you abnegate yourself before God or you represent him. And I abnegate myself before God.”
As to whether he thought he was crazy or had doubts about the path he took, Froman said: “Many crazy people, I think, don’t think they are crazy. Things will be good − if things will be good and there is peace. It has to materialize. A life of supplication; you have a great profit from that. You ask whether it is worthwhile, but of course it is worthwhile. A life of humility. … To accept is tremendous joy.
Because then the objective good or the objective truth speak through you. It is not only you and your thoughts. It might be expressed in a possibly cruel way. What Rachel writes is terribly cruel. Moses does not enter the land. But the nation enters. If there is someone who does not fulfill [a particular task], someone else will do it. Maybe my son,” he said.
When asked what he would like to leave behind as his legacy, Froman answered with one word: “Peace.”
An obituary from Ynet can be read HERE
The Forward posted THIS about Rabbi Froman
Here are two more videos showing his solidarity work between Jews and Palestinians, followed by additional photos ….
Speaking at the funeral, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon of Likud paid tribute to Froman and his efforts to find a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “You believed with all your heart in peace between humanity. You did everything to build bridges between people,” Ya’alon said.
In a written eulogy, President Shimon Peres also honored Froman’s role as a man of faith who embraced peace.
Froman’s eldest son Yossi told mourners at the funeral of the love that his father enjoyed across the Israeli political spectrum, and of his strong ties to his Arab neighbors. “Left and right, everyone loved you and you loved everyone. Your approach to our Arab neighbors was with love,” he said.
Froman was “a unique man who was a big believer in the Torah and a believer in peace,” wrote Peres. “His whole life was peace, and all his pathways were peace.” The president said that Froman had “found a way in to the hearts of bitter and difficult enemies and wherever there was conflict he tried to settle it with great spirit and wisdom.”
MK Aliza Lavie of Yesh Atid also paid tribute to the rabbi, saying, “We have lost us a man whose vision was ahead of his time. Rabbi Menachem Froman, of blessed memory, firmly believed that religion is a bridge to true peace between all the residents of the country.”
Peace activist and Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin paid tribute to Froman on his Facebook page on Monday, hailing the rabbi as someone who always strove to achieve peace. He cited a meeting that the rabbi had with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu two months ago when he tried to convince the PM to engage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in serious negotiations.“I did not share his faith in God, but I shared his passion for peace and his willingness to go to the ends of this earth to convince people that we can make peace and that we must make peace in this land,” Baskin wrote.
“The world’s Jews want an Israel they can be proud of and not an Israel that has no borders and that is considered an occupying state,” according to President Shimon Peres, whose comments were published in the New York Times Wednesday.
In a series of interviews he gave Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Ronen Bergman over the past six months, the Israeli president leveled harsh criticism at Benjamin Netanyahu over the diplomatic stalemate, without explicitly mentioning the prime minister’s name. “If the people of Israel heard from the leadership that there is a chance for peace, they would take up the gauntlet and believe it.
“He (Netanyahu) may do nothing, but that doesn’t mean that things won’t be done. This idea, that history is a horse that can be held by the tail, is a foolish idea. After all, the fire can be lit in an instant: another word, another shot, and in the end everyone will lose control. If there is no diplomatic decision, the Palestinians will go back to terror,” Peres told Bergman.
“Knives, mines, suicide attacks. The silence that Israel has been enjoying over the last few years will not continue, because even if the local inhabitants do not want to resume the violence, they will be under the pressure of the Arab world. Money will be transferred to them, and weapons will be smuggled to them, and there will be no one who will stop this flow,” he said.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
According to Peres, “most of the world will support the Palestinians, justify their actions, level the sharpest criticism at us, falsely label us a racist state. Our economy will suffer gravely if a boycott is declared against us. The world’s Jews want an Israel they can be proud of and not an Israel that has no borders and that is considered an occupying state.”
Asked what happened during the long period that he tried to mediate between Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, Peres said he had met the Palestinian president “for long talks, with Netanyahu’s knowledge, and even reached more than a few agreements. To my regret, in the end there was always some rupture, and I do not want to go into the reasons for that now. This is not a simple negotiation – but I thought the conditions exist to set out on the path. Like the Oslo process, it has to be secret.
And when you say this to Netanyahu?
“He doesn’t argue with me on this. It’s not an issue of absolute agreement or absolute disagreement. After all, he accepted my proposal for economic peace to improve the standard of living of the Palestinians in a number of areas. He also made the Bar-Ilan speech (in which Netanyahu accepted the idea of a Palestinian state). We do not agree in our evaluations of (Abbas). I do not accept the assertion that (Abbas) is not a good negotiating partner. To my mind, he is an excellent partner. Our military people describe to me the extent to which the Palestinian forces are cooperating with us to combat terror.”
According to Peres, the Palestinian problem “isn’t the main problem in the Middle East. But there are a billion and a half Muslims. The Palestinian problem affects our entire relationship with them. If the Palestinian problem were to be solved, the Islamist extremists would be robbed of their pretext for their actions against us. Of course, this requires concessions. The problem in this case is not only the prime minister but also his coalition.
“I am not claiming that peace with the Palestinians will solve all the problems. People who think in sweeping terms are being superficial. There are two things that cannot be made without closing your eyes – love and peace. If you try to make them with open eyes, you won’t get anywhere. Peace is not an exciting thing, and it entails accepting many compromises and tedious details. A woman, too, can sometimes be exciting and sometimes less so. There’s no perfection. Making peace is complicated,” he told Bergman.
But what kind of peace are we talking about? Look how President Morsi of Egypt sent you a personal letter in July and then denied writing it.
“Why does that matter? President Morsi has to answer a great many questions inside his own party. I was surprised not by his denial but rather by the fact that he sent me the letter. The whole matter shows me that Morsi, like any leader taking office, faces tough dilemmas. It is very easy to play the role of the abiding Muslim when you are not in power, but things get complicated when you are. Take, for example, the Egyptian economy, which relies heavily on tourism. If they don’t allow tourists to come and spend their vacations the way they like, they won’t come. No bikini, no tourism.”
The Israeli president warned that Syrian President Bashar Assadwould be “crossing a red line” if he transfers chemical weapons to Hezbollah. “Assad knows that using chemical weapons will immediately invite an attack by outside elements. The whole world would mobilize against him. It would be a suicidal act. On the other hand, it’s obvious that his days are numbered. A situation in which, let’s say, his palace comes under fire, could put him in an irrational state and lead him to act out of despair.
“If the Syrians dare to touch their chemical weapons and aim them at us or at innocent civilians, I have no doubt that the world as well as Israel will take decisive and immediate action,” Peres said.
“No less important, Assad is liable to transfer the chemical weapons to Hezbollah, which from our point of view will constitute crossing a red line. It is incumbent upon Israel to prevent such a thing from happening, and it will take firm military action to do so.”
Living under drones is not only life threatening, but unbearably annoying. At times, drones don’t leave the sky of Gaza for a long period of time, a week or more. It’s like having this huge fly in your room that can’t understand how the glass of the window is blocking its way out. At times, you start swearing at the drone like it’s one of those irritating people that nag all the time. Some people, like my father, who have very sensitive ears have a really hard time dealing with the constant buzz of the two or three drones that are circling their neighborhood. They would try everything to ignore the bee like sound following them everywhere they go. At times like that, getting to sleep becomes the most essential need of the human brain of the one million and a half population trying to cope their ears with the bees flying over their shoulders. During the latest offensive on Gaza, it was hard for anyone to sleep for a whole week. It was nerve breaking. The endless buzz of the drones was accompanied by sudden explosions that would occur every five minutes. Sometimes, more than five explosions would startle you in less than a minute. After seven days of the continuous drones and the piercing bombings and of bad sleeping and sometimes having no electricity, you feel like stuffing your head somewhere under pillows and blankets. That wouldn’t work either. Believe me; I tried. Your body eventually surrenders to its exhaustion and you go to sleep however constantly awoken by the earthquake like effect of the bombs.
However, complaining about the buzz seems ridiculous when you hear about or see drone attacks. When I was thirteen, a drone targeted a small goods truck passing by my home. It was summer. The night before the attack, I had asked my mother if I can sleep in the balcony. She said the mosquitoes will keep sucking my blood until they feel no more thirst. The idea frightened me. In the morning, there was more than mosquitoes to make me look bloodless. I had been sleeping on my parents bed and I had just woken up and gotten out of it. The explosion was sudden and deafening. Another explosion followed. I screamed and got down on the floor. The window, which was directly above the bed I had been lying on a minute ago smashed into pieces and the pillows were covered with glass. Nothing happened to me, and I don’t remember if I was really scared that day. I remember everyone rushed to the windows to see what was going on so I rushed along. That day, no one was injured. The people in the truck managed to escape. Luckily, it was morning and the children of the neighborhood were still inside. Had it been just a little bit later during the day a lot of children would have been injured. That was a long time ago and it’s nothing compared to the other drone attacks that are conducted here. Drones can attack people standing in the street and their rockets have the ability to shred their bodies into pieces, like the two AbuAmra brothers who were attacked during the recent attacks on Gaza and so many others.
The other martyr was Nabeel’s brother, Ahmed.
Most recently, drones were used by Israel for a new purpose. They call it “ a warning attack”. They target a house with one or two drone rockets that can partially damage the house and give a period of time, mostly three to five minutes, for the residents of the house and their neighbors to evacuate the house. First of all, a drone rocket can tear bodies to pieces and can make bricks of the roof fall on the people living under it. Meaning, it can never be called a “warning” attack. Second of all, three minutes is barely enough for the residents to run for their lives before the house is leveled to the ground. In many cases the house, which gets attacked in the middle of the night, is attacked with an F16 war plane while its residents, mostly women and children, are just stepping out of it. The Azzam family in AlZeitoun area is an example.Three people, a young woman and a child and a man were killed in that attack. More than thirty civilians, most of whom being children and women, were injured while running away from the bomb that attacked their house four minutes after it was attacked by a drone rocket. “ What do they want from us?” was the response of a little girl in the hospital that night.
Other tweets about drone attacks:
(This article was previously posted on Rawan Yaghi’s blog We Resist)
December 4, 2012 at 11:40 (Collective Punishment, Corrupt Politics, DesertPeace Editorial, Flashback.... from the archives, Hasbara, Human Rights, Illegal Settlements, Israel, Land Theft, Occupation, Palestine, Peace, zionist harassment)
Calls for Reconsideration Over ‘E1′ Occupation Plans
Thanks Giving .. A poem by Tom Karlson
“I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the western view of the Indian. I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
That original sin
Our original sin
Not a talking snake sin
No Adam or Eve sin
This original sin
This first holocaust sin
This First Nation
Long gone sin
200 languages silenced sin
This good, dead, jailed, Indian sin
310 million All-Americans
Sit at the table
Football and eats
And a parody written by Michael Rivero of WRH
Types With Tired Fingers
I have recently had a religious epiphany. I have decided to convert to the Sun Dance faith. This is a religion practiced by many of the North American native people for thousands of years. It’s easy to be a Sun Dancer; you can see the Sun! That’s a definite plus compared to religions relying on that imaginary playmate in the sky.I have long felt a kinship with my newly adopted religion and people as you can see in this photo of myself and my wife from the early 1990s.
In the spirit of traditional naming custom I have taken an aspect of my life as a blogger and adopted my new Native American name, “Types With Tired Fingers.” Because I am now religiously connected with the original people of the North American continent, who have been there for thousands of years, I hereby call on the United States Government to withdraw and return this land to its rightful traditional owners, myself included. After all, “We” were here first!
Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
And it is. My actual ancestry is a blend of Sephardic, French, and English. There is a family legend regarding a teensy bit of Huron blood, but no real documentation to support it. I am not actually a Native American. And pretending to their religion does not make me one.
Yet this very same silliness underlies the Israeli claim to Palestine. The Jews who migrated to Palestine after World War 2 are not descendants of the Hebrews you read about in the Bible. They are descended from Khazars in central Asia, near present-day Russian Georgia, who converted to Judaism in 800AD. Khazaria fell a century later and the descendants of the converted Jews migrated northward into Russia and west into Europe. This group of Jews, called Ashkenazi, are not descended from any of the 12 tribes described in the Bible. DNA tests confirm this, as does their pale skin that makes it clear they are not originally from the Middle East.
Thus, Israel’s claim to the lands of Palestine rests solely on the fact that they have adopted the religion of a people who lived on that land thousands of years ago. One might just as easily adopt the religion of Ra and on that basis lay claim to Egypt.
Of course, common sense says that simply adopting the religion of the Sun Dance does not give me a claim to the lands of the United States. Were I to worship Ra (or Aten), likewise does not give me a claim to the lands of Egypt. Worshipping Sol Invictus does not give me claim to Italy.
And worshipping Yahweh does not give the Khazars any real right to Palestine.
Just something to think about.
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
Restaurant.You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s RestaurantNow it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.
We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.
Op-ed: Let’s hope EU won’t fail as badly as past laureates Obama, Peres and Annan and ElBaradei have
Just a short reminder: In 1988 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. Since then the inefficiency of these forces has been proven countless times. In 2001 the prize was awarded jointly to the United Nations and its secretary general at the time, Kofi Anan, who knew of the genocide plans in Rwanda and did nothing. In 2005 it was the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that won the prize. The prize was accepted by the head of the agency at the time, Mohamed ElBaradei, who had worked consistently to conceal vital information on Iran’s nuclear programme. In 2009 Barack Obamareceived the award – for reasons that remain unclear to this day – less than a year after he took office. This year’s prize was awarded to the European Union for contributing “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
The advancement of peace? The victory of capitalism over communism at the end of the 80s allowed for the EU’s speedy expansion eastward, but it introduced a new kind of imperialism. The borders were opened up and limited economic prosperity was achieved, but the current financial crisis proves just how unstable a peace that is based solely on money is.
The advancement of reconciliation? The current crisis is indicative of just how thin and fragile this artificially-created European reconciliation is. Nationalism is thriving all across the EU, to such an extent that even old and repressed rivalries are resurfacing. Catalonia is demanding independence from Spain; Scotland from Britain; the Flemish people want to separate themselves from the Walloons in Belgium. Europe does not seem to have reconciled with itself. If anything, the opposite is true.
The advancement of democracy? The creation of the EU was made possible only due the efforts of a political and bureaucratic elite, which at times reached decisions that went against the wishes of the general public in the various EU states. The EU is still not based on the idea of a people’s democracy, but rather on the centralism of a corrupt and costly institution. The elections for the European Parliament are consistently marked by a very low voter turnout, while opposition to the union is steadily growing.
The advancement of human rights? Ask the gypsies who have been persecuted in Hungary, France, Slovakia and other countries what they think of it. The EU is worthy of the peace prize just as much as Annan, ElBaradei and Obama were. We can only hope that the EU will not fail as badly as they have, or as badly as those who received the Nobel Peace Prize for the Olso Accords have.
Watch what Max Keiser of Russia Today has to say ….
Nobel Peace Prize To European Union Is A Political Award
By Mairead Corrigan Maguire
Alfred Nobel was a visionary who believed in a demilitarized peaceful world. In his Will he left his Nobel peace prize to those who would work for ‘fraternity among nations’,’abolition or reduction of standing armies’, and ‘holding and promotion of peace congresses’.
In Nobel’s will the award for Peace was to go to Champions of peace, those working to replace militarism with international order based on law and the abolition of national military forces. Nobel’s vision and dream was to replace the power of militarism and war, with the power of law. I believe the Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, does not meet the criteria of Alfred Nobel vision and spirit, and his vision of a demilitarized peaceful world.
In many ways the European Union has done much in the past sixty years for Peace and reconciliation amongst nations, but it has sadly done little for the demilitarization of Europe. Whilst the EU imposes severe Austerity measures upon many EU countries it simultaneously supports the growing militarisation of Europe by its support for US/NATO (guilty of war crimes against Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., ) It continues to support the policies of USA Nuclear weapons, held in six EU States. It supports arms sales from European States (UK, Germany, etc.,) to countries all around the world. The EU instead of upholding human rights for countries such as Palestine, has rewarded Israel by giving them special trading status and huge grants (EU tax payers money) for its Military Research and weapons thus enabling it to continue it illegal policies of occupation and Apartheid of Palestine.
I cannot support this decision to give the peace prize to EU and appeal to the Swedish Foundation Authority to hold the Nobel Committee accountable for giving, yet again, a political award instead of supporting People taking courageous, and often dangerous stands to help move the human family away from military international Relations to one based on peaceful resolution of conflict.
I believe that the reform of the nobel peace Committee is now necessary. As is the case of all other nobel prize committees which are made-up of experts in their particular field, perhaps it is time too for the NPP Committee to be comprised of people experienced in the field of Peacemaking and International Law.
Mairead Maguire is a Northern Irish peace activist, and winner of 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. (www.peacepeople.com)
Remembering Hiroshima: Four survivors bring message to the Middle East
Nobuo Miaki arrived in Israel with three other survivors to warn against the horror of nuclear weapons, all nuclear weapons, whether Iranian or Israeli.By Oz Rosenberg
On the morning of August 6th, 1945, Nobuo Miaki, a thin 16-year-old was on the tram on the way to meet his mother on the other side of Hiroshima. It was eight o’clock, when suddenly a powerful flash hit the crowded tram. He later understood that this was the first of two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan. Sixty-seven years later, he is still haunted by that morning. This week, Miaki arrived in Israel with three other survivors to warn against the horror of nuclear weapons, all nuclear weapons, whether Iranian or Israeli.
“Within a second the tram was filled by a blue, blinding flash,” Miaki recalled this week in Jerusalem. “I understood something terrible happened, but I thought it was a short circuit. Fortunately, I was standing next to the exit and I jumped out without thinking.”
A second later there was an explosion and all the glass windows crashed on the people inside. “Many people were hurt, but I was relatively unscathed,” Miaki recalls. “I shut my eyes, and then found it hard to open them due to the dust and dirt. I asked myself if I’m dead or alive. Only when the dust settled down I managed to open my eyes and see the terrible destruction around me.”
Miaki ran all the way to the house where his mother was, and the sights he encountered on the way are still with him: “People whose skin was dripping off their bodies, horrendous burns, and since people didn’t want their arms to be glued to their bodies they raised them up. Everyone seemed inhuman, like aliens or ghosts, all walking and shouting, ‘I’m hot, I’m in pain.’ Everyone was looking for water.”
When he reached the house he found one of the neighbors trying to save his mother from the ruins. She was alive but her back was broken. “Only then did I raise my head. I suddenly noticed there weren’t any houses left. Everything was destroyed. I could see a clear view of the distant mountains.” People started screaming around him that a huge fire was rapidly approaching from the center of the city. “I hauled my mother on my back and started running. A military truck with seriously wounded people went by. My mother didn’t suffer severe burns, because she was protected by the walls, but they took her with them on account of her broken back. I was alone again.”
Miaki then went to the Hiroshima River to wash himself. “It was full of corpses,” he recalls. “They probably tried to cool themselves but fell in and drowned.” In the following days many of his friends and relatives died as there was no one left to take care of them. “The hospitals burned down, and the doctors were killed. There were no medicines, and even if there were, there was no one left to hand them out.”
Throughout the years many other friends and relatives died, most of them due to sicknesses, mainly cancer, caused by the radiation. In the 1980s Miaki decided to join the group of the bombs’ survivors – Hibakusha, in Japanese – and dedicate his life to raising world consciousness about the horrors of nuclear weapons.
“When Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be forgotten, history will repeat itself,” he says. “Since 1945 the world was close to a nuclear war several times, but it didn’t happen. We believe we have some part in that. Antiwar campaigns can help prevent another nuclear war.”
“When one considers an atom bomb, one thinks only of the mushroom,” says Sharon Dolev, founder and director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, who is hosting Miaki and three other survivors. “People don’t discuss the days and years that follow. That’s one of the reasons I wanted them to come here, to create a discourse that doesn’t exist in Israel. We talk about Iran, but don’t really pause to consider the consequences.”
Japan now has a new nuclear headache, North Korea. “Honestly, as to Iran and Israel I was unaware of the issue until I came here,” says Nobuko Sugino, 68, “but Iran is presented in a negative light, in a similar way to how the Japanese media depict North Korea.”
North Korea, as opposed to Iran, already has nuclear weapons, since 2005. Miaki doesn’t believe Japan will be attacked by nuclear weapons, and points out that since there are so many nuclear power plants in Japan that could serve as targets, “a regular bomb would have more of less the same effect.”
The Japanese constitution forbids the state to produce nuclear weapons, “but we’re also against nuclear power plants,” says Miaki. “The public is increasingly opposed to the plants, especially since the Fukushima disaster a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, the politicians have an interest not to phase out the plants, because they help foster political tension that benefits them.”
Miaki and his friends continued on their journey in the Middle East, but it seems that as the years pass, their mission becomes more difficult. The Hiroshima survivors – 220,000 according to official data – understand that they must lower their expectations regarding full nuclear disarmament. Like Holocaust survivors, with whom they met last week, they must fight forgetfulness first. “Most Japanese have never experienced war,” says Miaki. “That’s wonderful, but it also causes indifference.”
Clear to all
War against Iran:
An act of madness.
Worse than the disease.
The Israeli public
The security experts
But it is still
By a megalomaniac
And his bankrupt
Minister of Defense.
So, what’s it going to be? Will America take the ‘bait’ being tossed at them? Will the Israeli people swallow the lies spewed out by their government?
Is it not ironic that a country with 60-80 nuclear weapons is prepared to destroy a country that has none.
Regarding Iran, HaAretz made the following observation this week;
Iran will have a nuclear weapon. But what reason, for heaven’s sake, does it have to use it against a power which has a nuclear deterrent of its own, which could threaten it with total obliteration? Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s big mouth, which is not backed by any action, sufficient grounds for a regional war that would come at the cost of spilled blood and massive destruction? And, between us, have Bibi and Barak never regurgitated nonsense? Was every word they uttered the absolute truth?
Getting back to the word SHALOM, perhaps we need a newspaper here called The Shalom Cry, one that can be distributed wherever Israelis congregate.
Until that happens, we’ll just keep plugging away here at DesertPeace!