Israel – The Jumping Parliament – By Uri Avnery

Israel – The Jumping Parliament – By Uri Avnery – 27 January 2018

Uri Avnery

YEARS AGO, when I was a member of the Knesset, I decided to stage a demonstration in the plenum hall.  I put on a T-shirt with the slogan “Peace is greater than Greater Israel”. In the middle of the debate I took my jacket off, displaying the slogan.

After a few minutes, an usher approached me and said politely: “The Speaker would like to see you in his office.”

The speaker was Yitzhak Shamir, a former commander of the Lehi terrorist underground. He received me with a broad smile, asked me to be seated and said: “Uri, you have made your point. Now I ask you to take the t-shirt off and return to your seat!” Of course I did so.    

I remembered this small incident this week, when something much more serious happened in the Knesset.

THE AMERICAN vice president honored Israel with a visit and was received like a king.

Why? Don’t know. To my mind, the man is a good-looking and well-dressed fool.

Wherever he stopped, he made speeches that should have made even ardent Zionists blush. He lauded Israel in terms of childish adulation, heaping shameless flattery upon fake history.

Official Israel was ecstatic. No one reminded the public that the extreme Christian evangelism espoused by Pence has an unhappy end. It says that after all the Jews have gathered in the Holy Land, Christ will return to earth and all the Jews will convert to his religion. Those who don’t will perish.

The high point of the visit was Pence’s speech in the Knesset plenum. This in itself was curious. Such honors are reserved for foreign heads of state. Pence, as a mere vice, had no such right. But the Israeli government was set to flatter the man, who might one day become president himself.

Actually, the only reason I can imagine for not throwing Donald Trump out is the frightening idea that Pence will become president.

As a former Knesset member I was invited to be seated in the Plenum hall on this occasion, but of course I declined the honor. What followed was shameful.

When the vice president started to utter his chain of flatteries, the members jumped up and gave him a wild standing ovation. This was repeated again and again, up and down, up and down, and looked both ridiculous and disgusting.

Contrary to the US congress, the Knesset does not allow applause. In all my 10 years as a member, during which I attended every single session, I don’t remember a single hand-clap, not to mention multiple standing ovations.

After the guest’s speech, representatives of the parties had the right to respond. All the Jewish parties lauded the American politician wholeheartedly. No difference between coalition and opposition.

BUT THE really shameful scene came right at the beginning. When Pence started to speak, the members of the Arab United List stood up and waved placards protesting Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Knesset Guard seems to have been forewarned. In a split second, they set upon the 13 members of the list and evicted them forcibly. It was an ugly sight, made even uglier by the stormy applause from most Jewish members.

The United List is a combination of three Arab parties with widely divergent views – Communist, Nationalist and Islamist. They were compelled to unite when the Jewish majority enacted a law raising the minimum clause with the obvious intent of getting rid of the Arab parties, none of which had a chance of passing the minimum on its own. The unintended consequence of raising the minimum was – rather than perish – the Arab parties put up a joint list and became the third largest Knesset faction.

The entire ugly scene was quite superfluous. After a minute, the Speaker could have acted as Shamir did in my case – ask the Arab members to be seated after having made their point. But the present Speaker is no Shamir. He was a Zionist activist in Soviet Russia, with quite a different mentality.

FOR THE two million Arab citizens of Israel and the tens of millions of Arabs in the neighboring countries, the scene conveyed a clear message: The Arabs don’t really belong to the State of Israel.

The visual impact was unequivocal: all the Jews in the Knesset applauded the eviction of all the Arabs. It was a clear national divide, showing that the Arabs are strangers in the “Jewish state” – no matter how many centuries they have lived here.

The division is not so absolutely clean: the Arab list contains one Jewish communist, while most Jewish factions have one Arab member each. Popular humor calls them “Pet Arabs”.

This was not the end. On the very next day, the police announced that they were going to recommend that the three nationalist members of the United List be put on trial for breaking the party financing law.

Since parties represented in the Knesset receive state subsidies, the law prescribes what other donations they are allowed to receive. Israeli citizens are allowed to donate up to a certain maximum and donations from abroad are forbidden.

Now the police announced that the Arab national Party, Balad, had received large cash donations from abroad, disguising them with false documentation. The investigation, it was disclosed, has taken two years, with 140 persons interrogated.

Yeah? If so, why was the disclosure made exactly one day after the Knesset incident? Arab citizens and others are compelled to believe that the disclosure was a penalty for insulting the US Vice President.

How vicious! How stupid!

BUT ARABS are not the most unfortunate victims of this government. This role is reserved for the Africans.

Black people fleeing from Sudan and Eritrea have reached us for years after a long and painful trek, crossing the border between Sinai and Israel. In the end Israel built a wall and stopped the flow. But before that happened, about 35 thousand black Africans had reached Tel Aviv, where they settled in the poorest sections and soon quarreled with the locals.

The government built a special prison for them, but many had to be released. They were illegally employed washing dishes and such.

Now the Israeli government has made a secret agreement with the governments of Rwanda and Uganda: for a payment per head, these countries will receive the immigrants. The victims themselves will receive a few dollars if they leave voluntarily. Otherwise they will be incarcerated indefinitely.

The decision raised a storm. It was generally assumed that in these African countries the lives of the refugees would be in danger, that they would be robbed, raped and killed, that others would try to reach European shores and be killed on the way.

The racist aspect was painfully obvious. Israel is full of foreign workers, from Ukrainians to Chinese. The Africans could easily displace them and do their jobs. But they are black. And they might – God forbid! – marry kosher Jewish girls.

And suddenly something completely unexpected happened: A moral uprising. After a rising tide of protests and articles, citizens spoke with a new voice.

Hundreds of pilots and other air crew called for airlines to refuse to transport the refugees from Israel to Africa. Many announced that they themselves would refuse to fly them. They swore not to be like the German locomotive drivers, who transported the Jews to their deaths in the extermination camps.

An elderly woman, a survivor from such a camp, announced on TV that she would hide any refugee seeking her help. She called on all Israeli women to do the same and hide refugees in the attics of their homes. That was a clear allusion to Anne Frank, who was hidden with her family in an attic in Amsterdam during the Holocaust.

This is going on now, a rising tide, an Israeli voice that has not been heard for a long time. A voice that has been mute for so many years, the voice of my Israel, the voice of yesterday’s Israel – and hopefully tomorrow’s.

 

There was a time when I could be proud to be an Israeli. Perhaps this time is returning.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/28/2018 at 4:05 am

    Opinion
    The Fight Against the Expulsion of African Refugees Is a Pivotal Moment in Israel’s History

    If the government successfully deports thousands of asylum seekers, it will encourage the pursuit of even more malicious plans

    Gideon Levy | Haaretz

    Whether or not the deportation of African asylum seekers happens, Israel is facing nothing less than a test case that will shape its future.

    It’s impossible not to be shocked by the malice and racism behind this ethnic cleansing plan – the removal of non-Jewish black people on account of their skin color. The fate of 35,000 people should touch the hearts of every decent Israeli, but the issue is much broader and more important.

    On the agenda are hidden, far-reaching plans that only the extreme right talks about for now, but which one day could develop into an action plan. The expulsion of the African refugees is a pilot program of great import to the government and its opponents.

    If this mini-expulsion succeeds, expect more to come: prepare for a population transfer.

    If the first operation is successful, it will buoy hopes for additional expulsions.

    Israel will learn it can do it; that no one will stop it. And when Israel is capable of acting, it does so without holding back. Twice it brutally laid waste to the Gaza Strip, because it could, and it will do so again until somebody stops it.

    On the other hand, if the deportation of the asylum seekers fails, this will show that the part of Israel with a conscience has more power and influence than is apparent; that where there’s a will there’s a way. Its test will be to continue to fight, with the same means and determination, against other crimes. It too will draw hope from success.

    That’s why the African precedent is so important, why the expulsion plans and the battle to stop them cannot be underestimated. The fight has already proved itself:

    The commander of the expulsion, Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef – the director general of the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority– announced he will only deport unmarried men of working age.

    It is the first surrender in the face of broad public pressure – broader than anticipated – but it is meaningless.

    It is no more legitimate to abuse men than it is to abuse women or even old people. Expulsion is expulsion, whether of men or women.

    Mor-Yosef tried clumsily to sanction a sin, but his very need to hide behind “we’re only deporting men, so we’re all right” is an achievement. It can be assumed that, embarrassed, he will soon resign from his shameful post.

    But that is not enough. If the anti-deportation fight persists – including the acts of resistance that are so vital to it – the Netanyahu government will be forced to back down. Without pilots, there can be no expulsion flights and refugees cannot be hunted down in the face of pockets of civil disobedience.

    If this expulsion plan is foiled, the left will learn that the only way to prevail is through sacrifice and disobedience; rallies are ineffective.

    The anti-deportation camp will come to realize it can prevent crimes, but only if it is prepared to dig in and sacrifice; that not everything is ordained by the heavens or the right.

    And the government will learn it is not omnipotent, and that it has an active opponent with a conscience. It is worth recalling that a different ethnic cleansing operation – in the Jordan Valley and the south Hebron Hills – has not faced significant civil resistance.

    The next expulsion attempt could be that of Arab lawmakers from the Knesset.

    Everyone will deny it, but the undercurrents are there. It could happen overnight, with various and sundry pretexts employed to make them illegal. After all, who wouldn’t want that?

    The masses would be in favor, for sure, and the government too. Who would object? All that is needed is the right opportunity. The danger is closer than it appears. Who would believe that just 40 years ago, Israel proudly took in dozens of so-called boat people, refugees from Vietnam.

    Afterward, at some point, the real plan will be raised:

    To expel the Palestinians from the territories, or at least from part of them. Under the cover of a war or an uprising, with a great many security excuses. It could happen.

    It sounds like fiction now, but the successful expulsion of the African refugees will lend support to the idea that expulsion is a feasible option. Sounds crazy? Sure.

    A few years ago it was crazy to think that this country of refugees would forcibly load handcuffed refugees onto planes and send them to their fate in miserable places, as it plans to do in the near future.

    That is why it is so important to fight now.

  • michael hawkins  On 01/28/2018 at 5:05 am

    The only difference between Israel and Germany in the 2nd WW are the gas chambers, and they are getting away with it with the backing of the US

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/28/2018 at 8:10 am

    It is no more legitimate to abuse men than it is to abuse women or even old people. Expulsion is expulsion, whether of men or women.

    Mor-Yosef tried clumsily to sanction a sin, but his very need to hide behind “we’re only deporting men, so we’re all right” is an achievement. It can be assumed that, embarrassed, he will soon resign from his shameful post.

    But that is not enough. If the anti-deportation fight persists – including the acts of resistance that are so vital to it – the Netanyahu government will be forced to back down. Without pilots, there can be no expulsion flights and refugees cannot be hunted down in the face of pockets of civil disobedience.

    If this expulsion plan is foiled, the left will learn that the only way to prevail is through sacrifice and disobedience; rallies are ineffective. – Gideon Levy

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world:

    The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.

    Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

    ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

  • Clyde Duncan  On 02/10/2018 at 8:22 pm

    Opinion: Germany Bought Israel’s Forgiveness

    PR dla Zagranicy
    Victoria Bieniek | Radio Poland

    Israel shifted some of the blame for the Holocaust to Poland after Germany “bought” Israel’s forgiveness, while Poland under communist rule was too poor to do the same, Israeli ex-Education Minister Yuli Tamir has recalled former Polish President Lech Kaczyński as saying.

    In a piece for Israeli daily Haaretz, published as relations between Israel and Poland remained tense after new anti-defamation rules were recently signed into law in Warsaw, Tamir spoke of her meeting in Israel with Lech Kaczyński in 2008.

    Tamir said Kaczyński told her that he understood Jews’ pain and urge not to forget the Holocaust but that Israel had forgiven Germany and “cynically” diverted blame to Poland.

    “You send your high school students to Poland, they march in our streets, waving Israeli flags, exuding hatred and fear… and then they go to Berlin to have a good time, they sit in the cafes next to Gestapo (Nazi secret police) headquarters and feel good,” Kaczyński said, according to Tamir.

    Kaczyński reportedly told Tamir that Israel was “rewriting history” and “deliberately blurring the difference between the horrific testimonies about Poles who murdered and massacred Jews, and the fact that the Polish people and its government never declared a war of annihilation on the Jews”.

    “The annihilation policy was official German policy,” Kaczyński reportedly said, adding: “I respect and understand the pain of victims, but we [Poles] too were victims”.

    Kaczyński invited Tamir to Warsaw, where she later spent three days considering World War II from a Polish perspective, which included lessons about the Polish underground, the destruction of Warsaw, and detention camps for Polish anti-Nazi activists.

    Tamir said her Polish hosts asked Israel “to remember that [Poland] did not initiate the Holocaust”.

    Polish officials also told her that they wanted Israeli “children who come to visit the camps to look at us differently, to meet Polish youth, to know that there is a different Poland”.

    According to Tamir they also said: “We want you to treat us the way you do the Germans,” adding: “Who would have believed at the end of the war that we would beg to be treated like the Germans”.

    Tamir said that, in the nearly ten years since Kaczyński visited her, “no meaningful change occurred” at the national level.

    She stressed that she did not justify new Polish anti-defamation laws but called for Jews to look critically at their attitude toward Poland and Poles.

    “I too often ask myself what I or we would have done under the conditions of a brutal occupation. Who would collaborate? Who would fight? Who would turn his head in order not to see?” Tamir said.

    Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed a contested law which could impose a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.

    In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which many say implies the country’s involvement in the Holocaust.

    Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.

    Poland’s ruling conservatives have said such phrases distort history.

    But the new law has drawn criticism from the USA, Ukraine and Israel.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 02/10/2018 at 8:41 pm

    Uri Avnery: “Not Enough!”

    MANY YEARS ago, right after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, I was asked to write a book about the events. Rachel took the photos, I wrote the text. The book, which appeared only in Hebrew, was called “Lenin Does Not Live Here Anymore”.

    When we visited Warsaw, we were astonished by the many places in the city with metal plates announcing “(Name) was executed by the Germans at this spot”. Until then we had no idea that the Polish resistance had opposed the Nazis so fiercely.

    After coming home, Rachel happened to enter a clothes shop and hear the female owner talking with a customer in Polish. Still full of her discovery, Rachel asked the owner: “Did you know that the Nazis also killed a million and half non-Jewish Poles?”

    The woman answered “NOT ENOUGH!”

    Rachel was amazed. So was I.

    We knew, of course, that many Polish Jews did not like the Polish people, but we were not aware of the intensity of this hatred.

    THIS HATRED reappeared in full force this week.

    The Polish parliament decreed that anyone who uses the words “Polish extermination camps” is committing a crime punishable by three years in prison.

    The right description, according to the Poles, is “Nazi extermination camps in Poland”.

    The rectification is quite correct. But in Israel, a storm broke out. What?! The Poles deny the Holocaust? Do they deny that many Poles helped the Nazis to catch and kill the Jews?

    That is what many Israelis believe. Quite wrongly, of course. Poland never made peace with the Nazis, unlike several other European countries.

    The Polish government fled to France and then to Britain, from where they directed the Polish resistance. Actually, there were two Polish underground organizations, a national and a communist one. Both fought the Nazis and paid a heavy price.

    If I am not mistaken, it was the Polish government in exile which transmitted to the Zionist leadership the first reliable information about the extermination camps.

    Were there Polish collaborators with the Nazis? Of course there were, like in every occupied country. Without making any comparison, there are lots and lots of Palestinian collaborators in today’s occupied territories.

    The main non-German helpers in the extermination camps were Ukrainians, whose hatred for Russia led them to sympathize with the Nazis. That and their own deep-seated anti-Semitism, stemming from the time when the Ukraine belonged to Poland and Jews administered the estates for the Polish owners.

    The Nazis did not really make a serious effort to gain Polish or Ukrainian cooperation. Hitler’s secret plan was to exterminate or enslave all the Slavs too, right after the Jews, in order to create more Lebensraum for the German nation.

    YET IT took less than 10 years from the end of the Holocaust for Israel to sign an agreement with the German state, while the hatred for Poland continues unabated

    Why?

    Nobody ever asks the most obvious question: how come so many Jews, millions of them, came to live in Poland in the first place?

    Centuries ago, when the Jews were driven out of Germany and other North-European countries, where did they go? Which European countries opened their gates for them?

    Well, at the time Poland was the most open, even the most tolerant country in Europe. Fleeing Jews were welcomed and found a new home. The king had a Jewish mistress. An entire Jewish town grew up near Krakow, the center of Polish culture.

    THAT POLISH-JEWISH Spring passed. What remained was the reality of a huge Jewish minority in Poland.

    A minority that is radically different from the majority is always a problem.

    The Jews were different from the Poles in religion and culture, they spoke a different language (Yiddish). And there were lots and lots of them. Many millions.

    So it was almost inevitable that between the two groups there sprang up a mutual distaste, which turned into mutual hatred. There were some pogroms.

    However, it seems that in modern Poland Jews lived in comparative comfort. They were organized politically and set up coalitions with non-Jewish minorities.

    Masses of Polish Jews tried to emigrate to Germany. The German Jews, who despised them, put them on ships and sent them to the United States, where they prospered.

    After the advent of Hitler, when German Jews started to arrive in Palestine, they found Polish Jews who had arrived there before, like Dovid Grün (David Ben-Gurion) from Plonsk. The German Jews were received by them with contempt and ridicule.

    IT IS this convoluted relationship of many centuries that is now finding its expression in the Polish-Israeli clash of the last few days.

    Many Israelis have been taught to believe that the Holocaust was a joint German-Polish enterprise, and that the ovens of Auschwitz were operated by Poles. After all, wasn’t Auschwitz in Poland?

    Was it an accident that practically all extermination camps were on Polish soil? Actually, it was an ideal location for the Nazis, especially after their invasion of the USSR. The Jews were there.

    I DON’T believe that this exposition of facts will help. The sentiments are too deeply entrenched. But what the hell.

  • Mark  On 02/12/2018 at 2:04 pm

    If you’re a Sephardi Jew like Jamaican superstar Sean Paul, the pale white Ashkenazim Jews will be racist. Modern day Israel is like a white supremacist version of Jewishness, and racism is alive in Israel within the Jewish community.

    The problem is that Jews from former Soviet Russia, USA, Canada and Europe bring their racism into Israel. The Evangelicals in USA who kiss Israel’s racism feet are also part of the problem.

    If your skin is not as white as snow, the Jewish community in North America, Europe and Israel will deny you status as a Jew.

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