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[israel] Israel's Conscience (Karpf, Anne)

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  • mygulamali
    From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4353490,00.html Israel s conscience Diaspora Jews are asked to support the state, but some are backing acts of
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2002
      From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4353490,00.html

      Israel's conscience
      Diaspora Jews are asked to support the state, but some are backing
      acts of Israeli opposition to the occupation

      Anne Karpf
      Monday February 11, 2002
      The Guardian

      Salim Shawamreh's house, a couple of miles east of Jerusalem, has
      again been demolished by the Israeli authorities. It was knocked down
      because the Palestinian did not have a building permit: he'd been
      turned down three times, for a succession of absurd bureaucratic
      reasons. Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against
      House Demolitions, is helping to rebuild it for the fourth time.
      Three weeks ago Halper was arrested again as he tried to prevent the
      demolition of houses in another village.

      On February 3, 300 peace activists defied the ban against travel to
      Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and went to Ramallah to
      express solidarity with the Palestinian leadership and people. They
      pressed on when Israel Defence Force soldiers tried to stop them at a
      checkpoint along the way, met Arafat, and later chanted at the
      IDF: "Soldiers come home." The soldiers responded with stun grenades.

      Such acts of conscience challenge the prevailing view that, once the
      current intifada began in September 2000, Israeli doves simply flew
      away. Certainly the Israeli left has been beset by despair and
      depression, and there's been no centralised political opposition to
      Sharon, especially since the Labour party joined the national
      coalition government. But the assumption that all Israelis are either
      rabid settlers or their uncritical supporters is as caricatured as
      the idea that all Muslims are terrorists or their abetters.

      In reality, throughout the past 17 months a small but symbolic array
      of Israeli peace groups has intensified its efforts, and has been
      further galvanised by the combat reservists' recent petition calling
      on soldiers to refuse to serve beyond the "green line" (the 1967
      borders). Their numbers may be tiny but their moral and political
      significance is huge. They shift the terms of the debate from one for
      or against Israel to one for or against the occupation.

      Those who visited Arafat belong to a group of Arab and Jewish
      activists, Ta'ayush (Arabic for partnership), formed a month after
      the intifada began. The group specialises in solidarity delegations
      to proscribed West Bank areas, whose inhabitants are suffering
      economic strangulation because they can no longer work or market
      their produce in Israel. In January, despite IDF harassment, they
      walked three miles up a mountain and through deep mud to reach a
      South Hebron village.

      Meanwhile the 90 members of Rabbis for Human Rights spent the recent
      Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shvat (the birthday of trees) replanting a
      small number of the 30,000 Palestinian olive trees - the life-support
      of the villages - uprooted by Israeli soldiers. Gush Shalom and Ariga
      maintain a boycott of goods produced in the settlements.

      Israeli women's peace organisations that make up the Coalition of
      Women for a Just Peace run some of the most interesting, least
      publicised, projects. Among them are the 70 members of Machsom Watch,
      who conduct daily observations at checkpoints between Israel and the
      West Bank, challenging capricious new rules invented by officers in
      charge, and Women in Black, which holds regular anti-occupation
      vigils.

      More high-profile is Yesh Gvul (There's a Limit), the organisation
      supporting refuseniks, which has developed the idea of "selective
      refusal" for reservists prepared to serve, but not in the occupied
      territories. Since September 2000 at least 400 Israelis have chosen
      this path, with 40 of them jailed for up to 28 days. Halper's 18-year-
      old son, Yair, has just finished a three-month sentence for refusing
      to serve altogether "because of oppression of the Palestinians".

      Another 209 reservists have signed the recent petition, but kept
      deliberately independent of Yesh Gvul. They have also refused all
      interviews with the foreign media, to avoid being part of an
      international campaign to denounce Israel. To appreciate the courage
      of their actions, one needs to understand the pivotal role of the
      army in Israeli society. Military service is considered not just a
      duty but also an honour, conferring social benefits as well as
      lifelong friendships.

      The petition has ignited flickers of hope. Peace Now, virtually
      dormant for the past 18 months, is holding Saturday-night vigils
      outside Ariel Sharon's Jerusalem residence. Last Thursday it launched
      its first new campaign since Sharon took office: "Leave the
      settlements - stop the terror". Yesh Gvul has just begun a leafleting
      campaign directed at soldiers and all citizens of military age; 8,000
      people attended a demonstration against the occupation in Tel Aviv on
      Saturday night. Halper says that the ICAHD's experience of working
      alongside the Palestinians as guests in their territory has
      challenged them to try to "decolonise themselves".

      The Israeli government has been exhorting diaspora Jews to holiday in
      Israel, to demonstrate their support for the Jewish state. Those of
      us who believe that the best way of doing this is to encourage the
      creation of a Palestinian state, prefer to give succour to the myriad
      Israeli groups working to that end.

      • Anne Karpf's The War After: Living With The Holocaust is published
      by Mandarin.

      akarpf9@...

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
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