ISRAHELL DOCTRINE: Breaking Palestine’s Peaceful Protests

Israel Has Categorized All Forms of Resistance as Insurgency

“Why,” I have often been asked, “haven’t the Palestinians established a peace movement like the Israeli Peace Now?”

The question itself is problematic, being based on many erroneous assumptions, such as the notion that there is symmetry between the two sides and that Peace Now has been a politically effective movement. Most important, though, is the false supposition that Palestinians have indeed failed to create a pro-peace popular movement.

In September 1967 – three months after the decisive war in which the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem were occupied – Palestinian leaders decided to launch a campaign against the introduction of new Israeli textbooks in Palestinian schools. They did not initiate terrorist attacks, as the prevailing narratives about Palestinian opposition would have one believe, but rather the Palestinian dissidents adopted Mahatma Gandhi-style methods and declared a general school strike: teachers did not show up for work, children took to the streets to protest against the occupation and many shopkeepers closed shop.

Israel’s response to that first strike was immediate and severe: it issued military orders categorising all forms of resistance as insurgency – including protests and political meetings, raising flags or other national symbols, publishing or distributing articles or pictures with political connotations, and even singing or listening to nationalist songs.

Moreover, it quickly deployed security forces to suppress opposition, launching a punitive campaign in Nablus, where the strike’s leaders resided. As Major General Shlomo Gazit, the co-ordinator of activities in the occupied territories at the time, points out in his book The Carrot and the Stick, the message Israel wanted to convey was clear: any act of resistance would result in a disproportionate response, which would make the population suffer to such a degree that resistance would appear pointless.

After a few weeks of nightly curfews, cutting off telephone lines, detaining leaders, and increasing the level of harassment, Israel managed to break the strike.

While much water has passed under the bridge since that first attempt to resist using “civil disobedience” tactics, over the past five decades Palestinians have continuously deployed nonviolent forms of opposition to challenge the occupation. Israel, on the other hand, has, used violent measures to undermine all such efforts.

It is often forgotten that even the second intifada, which turned out to be extremely violent, began as a popular nonviolent uprising. Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar revealed several years later that the top Israeli security echelons had decided to “fan the flames” during the uprising’s first weeks. He cites Amos Malka, the military general in charge of intelligence at the time, saying that during the second intifada’s first month, when it was still mostly characterised by nonviolent popular protests, the military fired 1.3m bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. The idea was to intensify the levels of violence, thinking that this would lead to a swift and decisive military victory and the successful suppression of the rebellion. And indeed the uprising and its suppression turned out to be extremely violent.

But over the past five years, Palestinians from scores of villages and towns such as Bil’in and Jayyous have developed new forms of pro-peace resistance that have attracted the attention of the international community. Even Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently called on his constituents to adopt similar strategies. Israel, in turn, decided to find a way to end the protests once and for all and has begun a well-orchestrated campaign that targets the local leaders of such resistance.

One such leader is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and the co-ordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, is one of many Palestinians who was on the military’s wanted list. At 2am on 10 December (international Human Rights Day), nine military vehicles surrounded his home. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, and after allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and three young children, blindfolded him and took him into custody. He is being charged with throwing stones, the possession of arms (namely gas canisters in the Bil’in museum) and inciting fellow Palestinians, which, translated, means organising demonstrations against the occupation.

The day before Abu Ramah was arrested, the Israeli military carried out a co-ordinated operation in the Nablus region, raiding houses of targeted grassroots activists who have been fighting against human rights abuses. Wa’el al-Faqeeh Abu as-Sabe, 45, is one of the nine people arrested. He was taken from his home at 1am and, like Abu Ramah, is being charged with incitement. Mayasar Itiany, who is known for her work with the Nablus Women’s Union and is a campaigner for prisoners’ rights was also taken into custody as was Mussa Salama, who is active in the Labour Committee of Medical Relief for Workers. Even Jamal Juma, the director of an NGO called Stop the Wall, is now behind bars.

Targeted night arrests of community leaders have become common practice across the West Bank, most notably in the village of Bil’in where, since June, 31 residents have been arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations against the wall. Among these is Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a prominent activist who has been held in detention for almost five months and is under threat of being imprisoned for up to 14 months.

Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high “price tag” for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement.

Thus, my answer to those who ask about a Palestinian “Peace Now” is that a peaceful grassroots movement has always existed. At Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s trial next Tuesday one will be able to witness some of the legal methods.

Ref: Counterpunch

Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

ANALYSIS / Obama will find Bush has done the peacemaking for him

While the greatest democracy in the world chose for the first time in its history a black, peace-loving man for president, tiny Israel is marking 13 years since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a home-grown zealot.

Between us and the U.S.

When the trumpets of victory fall silent, the galling voices of the extremists will be heard, those who will not accept the “evil decree” of the voter. America, too, has been “blessed” with messianic-racist movements whose people are prepared to die for “sacred” causes such as negating a woman’s right to her own body and the right of people to purchase a deadly weapon in their corner grocery.
America has also experienced the assassination of its leaders. Like the Shin Bet security services, the great Secret Service is not immune to a suicide-terrorist.

The wellbeing of Barack Obama should be especially dear to Israel, not only because of its special relationship to the United States. It may be assumed that his advisers will see to it that he will not abandon Israel.

I had the privilege of knowing two of the Middle East advisers the new president has chosen: former ambassador Dan Kurtzer and strategist Dan Shapiro. Both are Jews who support Israel and love peace. Both believe that the existence of the Jewish state depends on the existence of a Palestinian state. And naturally, a new president who was widely supported by Jews and will be thinking about his second term will not want to irritate this group.

The shadow of the Muslim branch of Barack-Hussein’s family tree will force him to be particularly careful when it comes to the United States-Israel-Arab triangle. In the past eight years Israel has become addicted to the heady fragrance of the White House and Congress, which have allowed it to do as it wanted in the territories.

However, George W. Bush has done Obama’s work for him. In the Oval Office Obama will find Bush’s two-state vision: the Road Map that promised peace with all Arab countries by May 2005 and a complete freeze on settlements. He will also find a copy of the letter Bush sent to Ariel Sharon, in which he promised that the United States would support an agreement based on withdrawal from all territories except the main settlement blocs and the return of refugees to a Palestinian state.

Obama will have to decide when he wants to redeem these debts. The outcome of the Israeli elections will doubtless impact his decision. If the Kadima-Labor coalition remains, the president will not have to work hard to get Israel going in a desirable direction for the United States. And since Obama’s first year in office is PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ last, the American president will not want to be blamed for the fall of the West Bank into Hammas hands.

In March, the Arab League will reopen discussion of its peace initiative. If there is no change in the American attitude toward the Syrian-Israeli channel, Damascus will seek support for shelving this important document.

If surveys predicting a victory for the right in Israel are borne out, the American president will obviously have some persuading to do to get the Israeli government to follow his liberal path of dialogue and compromise. The decision whether to risk re-enacting the confrontation between Bill Clinton and Benjamin Netahyahu, and shake up relations with Israel and the Jewish community, will depend on two factors: One is how important Obama thinks an Arab-Israeli peace treaty is in defusing the crisis in Iraq and isolating Iran. The second is Obama’s willingness to force Israel into translating its songs of peace into action.

The first sign the right was getting used to the American changeover could be seen in Channel 2’s interview with former ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon. The new acquisition of Yisrael Beiteinu said there was nothing to fear from Obama, and he believed Obama was good for Israel because “it would be easier for him to create a coalition against Iran.” This is the same Ayalon who wrote in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post in January that “we should look at the Obama candidacy with some degree of concern.”

It seems that Israelis who called Bush “the friendliest president to Israel” do have something to be concerned about. In contrast, those who are concerned about Israel becoming an apartheid state living forever by the sword have new hope since yesterday. In the meantime, it is only hope.

Ref: Haaretz

It’s the roadblocks, stupid

..Israelis and Palestinians involved in the talks on borders, an issue considered to be relatively “easy,” say there is a big gap between the reports on the talks’ progress and the reality around the negotiating table. It seems Olmert’s representatives expect Mahmoud Abbas to allocate to Israel larger pieces of territory than those Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton discussed with Yasser Arafat in 2000. This means that after seven and a half years of struggle, thousands of dead, tens of thousands injured and enormous economic losses, a weak Palestinian president is being asked to surrender principles that a powerful leader would not dare give up.
According to the progress in the negotiations with the Palestinians, police investigators will complete the Olmert case long before the prime minister signs a final-status agreement with Abbas. How is it possible to expect him to make difficult decisions such as dividing Jerusalem and recognizing some Israeli responsibility for the fate of the 1948 refugees when as prime minister he has run away from much easier decisions?

Instead of finally informing President Hosni Mubarak that he is ready to adopt the truce (tahadiyeh) and create an easier atmosphere for negotiations, Olmert is leaving that hot potato in the hands of the defense establishment. Amos Gilad (who is described by Arab diplomats as “Mr. No-No”) was sent to Cairo to demand that even after Hamas stops firing Qassam rockets, Israel will still be allowed to carry out attacks in Gaza whenever the Shin Bet security service decides that some guy is a “ticking bomb.” Olmert also fails to get passing marks regarding the roadblocks between Nablus and the villages in the district.

The United Nation’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a report this weekend after a study by its field officers throughout the West Bank. The report shows that of the 61 obstacles Israel declared removed last month, only five were of any significance, easening the lives of Palestinian civilians. The report also notes that during the past eight months the number of obstacles to Palestinian movement has increased – from 566 to 607. This comes in addition to preventing Palestinians from using main roads, delays at many obstacles and an increase in the number of arrests and interrogations of civilians. All this is done mostly for the convenience of several thousand settlers.

To avoid any friction with them, Olmert is leaving the decision on the separation fence’s route to the Supreme Court, and with that is allowing large holes in the wall that are only inviting terrorists. On the basis of an unfounded assertion that “the Americans have agreed for us to build in the settlement blocs,” instead of evacuating outposts, he expands settlements at the heart of the territories, as in Ariel and Elkana. This is the man who will sign off on the evacuation of 150,000 Israeli citizens from the West Bank and the Golan Heights? Even if his attorneys prove that he secretly gave out the money in Morris Talansky’s envelopes to homeless Holocaust survivors, Olmert has not done his job. Olmert needs to go.

Ref: Haartez By Akiva Eldar