Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Days Of Awe

It is hard to imagine a more vivid contrast between the Israels that Israelis must choose.

This morning, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Daniel Shechtman, 70, a professor of materials science at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. A professional in cosmopolitan Haifa, who also teaches in Iowa, Shechtman personifies the old Zionist dream of a Jewish modernity, taking in what is best in the larger world, and breathing out a creative newness--in this case, an ingenious proof that nature, the natural crystal, is capable of imitating of all things classical Islamic art, which might have also been Maimonides' art, since its genius was delighting without "graven images."

Also this morning, I got this email from my friend Assaf Sharon, who along with other members of Solidarity was attacked near the settlement of Anatot on Rosh Hashana: "Perhaps you have already heard about the violent attack we experienced on Rosh Hashana. I paste below a description of the events and a video capturing some of what happened. Although I took quite a beating, I must confess that the pain of the blows and wounds dulls in comparison with the frustration from the silence and indifference with which this unprecedented event is being received."

I reproduce his report in full. Something to consider on Yom Kippur:

For decades, the Israeli government and police force have passively allowed settlers to act violently against Palestinians and Israelis who protest the occupation. Last Friday, when a mob of settlers attacked a group of Palestinian farmers and Israeli solidarity activists outside the settlement of Anatot, a new level of collusion was reached: not only did the police not act to stop the mob of settlers, but indeed many of the settlers in the mob were themselves out-of-uniform policemen and state employees. The press was silent. The occupation has found a new way to silence non-violent resistance and dissent.

At first glance, Anatot is a pastoral gated community close to Jerusalem, inhabited by law-abiding citizens, many of whom are employed by the Civil Administration and the police. But despite its benign appearance, Anatot is a settlement, located in Palestinian territory occupied in 1967. Anatot was built in 1982 on land allocated by the Israeli government, and inexpensive housing was offered to police officers and other government employees in order to encourage them to live and work in the otherwise unattractive area known by the Israeli government and settlers as “Judea and Samaria,” and by the rest of the world as the West Bank. Like many other settlements, Anatot is surrounded by a separation fence that envelops acres of privately-owned Palestinian land.

Six years ago, the residents of Anatot decided to expand their settlement southward. They neither requested nor received government permits to expand. They simply rerouted the settlement’s fence to encompass additional private Palestinian land, including land owned by a farmer named Yassin el-Rafa’i and his family, who are citizens of Israel. For years, settlers from Anatot have regularly harassed el-Rafa’i. On multiple occasions, settlers have uprooted el-Rafa’i’s trees and otherwise damaged his property, including poisoning his well with animal carcasses. El-Rafa’i has filed numerous complaints with the local police, but to no avail.

The police have consistently refused to address el-Rafa’i’s complaints, or to take any action whatsoever to restrain the settlers’ continued harassment. Last Friday (9/30/2011), a group of a dozen Israeli activists from The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, Ta’ayush, and other groups, went to visit Yassin el-Rafa’i and his wife Iman, in order to hear their story and to express friendship and solidarity. While the activists were getting ready to go home, a crowd of nearly a hundred settlers from Anatot surrounded the el-Rafa’i family and the Israeli activists.

The mob of settlers quickly grew violent, and began to attack Iman, Yassin and the Israeli activists with fists, rocks and clubs. Three people were hospitalized, including Yassin and Iman, and several activists were detained for interrogation. During the entire incident, uniformed police officers were present, and did nothing to stop or restrain the mob, despite the activists’ repeated pleas for intervention. Not a single settler was detained or arrested. No journalists were present, and the majority of the evidence was destroyed by the attackers, who specifically targeted cameras, breaking or stealing them and beating the photographers.

That evening, a group of about 40 Israeli activists returned to Anatot, to protest the brutalities committed earlier that day. The activists held a nonviolent demonstration in front of the settlement’s locked gate, while hundreds of settlers amassed on the other side. Some had participated in the afternoon's violent attack, and some were soldiers and police officers in civilian dress: a horde of men seething with hatred and hungry for violence. The settlers demanded that the gates be opened, and charged at the activists, again with fists, rocks, and clubs.

The police officers in uniform that were present did nothing to restrain the crowd. One of the attackers tried a number of times to stab activists with a knife. When we tried to get away from the place, the attackers chased us, chanting “Death to Arabs!” and "Death to leftists!" They were accompanied by a group of uniformed police officers. About 10 demonstrators were injured, three of whom were evacuated for medical treatment. Six cars were seriously damaged or destroyed. On one of them a Jewish star, a Magen David, was incised.

Despite the attack, which was caught in stills and in video, the police did not arrest a single rioter. And despite the fact that the afternoon’s attack was known to the press, not a single journalist was present to witness the evening’s attack. The readiness with which the settlers turned to brutal violence - violence which in any other context would be called terror - exposes Anatot for what it is: an extremist ideological settlement. Furthermore, these attacks call into question the commonly held belief in Israel which posits a clear distinction between extremist, ideological settlements and moderate, ‘quality of life’ settlements.

All settlements are based on expropriation and dispossession, and all are maintained by the same tools of the occupation. The fact that the police accommodated and enabled the rioters highlights the complete lack of both accountability and justice in the occupation .The police and security forces do not monitor the settlers; they work for the settlers. In many cases, including the case of Anatot, the police are the settlers, and the settlers are the police. Police out of uniform assaulted citizens while uniformed police looked on and did nothing. The press largely ignored the events, and only after considerable public pressure and the release of videos and photos did several newspapers cover Friday’s events.

Even then, most of the coverage was tepid, equivocating, and biased towards the settlers and the police. With the Anatot events, political conflict in Israel has reached a watershed. In the light of day and under the supervision of the law enforcement, nonviolent dissent is being silenced with brutality. Dissidents are branded as traitors, and their physical safety and property are forfeit. Israelis and Palestinians alike were savaged by a mob of settlers, who acted with the complete confidence of those whose impunity is guaranteed.

Decades of occupation and repression have made Israeli society largely callous to settler and state violence against Palestinians. In Anatot on Friday, this violence was extended to Israelis who arrived to show nonviolent solidarity with the struggle against injustice, discrimination, and occupation.

•We demand an investigation of the events in Anatot, to be carried out by a special commission made of officials unrelated to the Judea and Samaria District.
•We demand the immediate suspension of the law enforcement officers present, and the dismissal of the chief security officer of the settlement, Tomer Shapira.
•We demand that the el-Rifa’i family be guaranteed full and uninhibited access to all of their land, including, if necessary, security escorts and protection.
•We demand the dismantlement of the illegal separation fence that allows the settlers of Anatot to expropriate privately-owned Palestinian lands.

We will not be silenced. We will continue to struggle against the occupation, violence, and repression. We will continue to stand up for justice, civil equality and democracy. Will you stand up with us? Share the story of the Anatot events and of the el-Rifa’i family. Share the videos of the attacks with your friends, family, classmates and colleagues. Bring these stories to the attention of your political representatives and community leaders.

-- Assaf Sharon


Y. Ben-David said...

As I understand it, er-Rifai is an Israeli citizen. Did he go to court to clarify the land-ownership situation. Groups like Ta'ayush and the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators have a dual purpose. Purpose number, directed at naive outsiders it "to protect Arab rights against aggressive settlers". Thus they come, bringing the poor, pathetic Palestinian to what is supposedly "his land" (although usually this is not clear if not an outright fraud) accompanyed by numerous Israeli and foreign anarchits and anti-Israel activists. These people come equipped with cameras. The Jews living in the settlement have to worry that the this may be an attempt to encroach on THEIR land or worse, at attempt to break in. If violence breaks out, the cameramen are ready to record it, to send out to sympathetic anti-Israel activists outside of Israel in order to get support and, more importantly, to raise money.
However, those accompanying the poor, pathetic Palestinian really oppose the very existence of the settlement, so "protecting the rights of the poor Palestinians" is really just an excuse. They want action and they want violence because they believe this will turn Israeli and world opinion against the settlers in general. Thus, they are disappointed if there is NO violence.
A perfect example was the famous case that Dr Avishai publicized here that occurre in Silwan. A group of Arab kids were lying in ambush accompanyed by numerous cameramen waiting for a Jewish car to go by. When one arrived there was a massive assault of rocks and even large cement blocks thrown at the car which smashed the windows and could have easily killed someone. The driver swerved and hit one of th kids. Dr Avishai and the others who publicized it wanted to claim that it showed that "here is another violent settler who runs over innocent Arab kids for the fun of it", which of course, as the video itself showed, was a lie. The Arabs were the violent party and the driver was trying to save his life. So we see that with these confrontations, propaganda is more imporant that the supposed "rights" of Arab property owners. These incidents are just another battle in the war against the Jewish settlements and it is best that those who are provoking these incidents be honest about.

Potter said...

Ben-David- the settlements don't belong there in the first place so arguing about who started the violence is secondary to the issue. Emotions are strong on both sides but how can you compare a knife with a camera? or a rock with a rifle? Don't you differentiate between legal from illegal? Right from wrong?

Let Solidarity fund-raise this way, more power to them. Let this Youtube video be embedded throughout the internet and let Israel continue to shame itself. This you cannot build a wall around. Solidarity is just an instrument to prod consciences.

Young friends ( nearly family), sabras, just arrived from Israel for a few years to do post doctorate scientific work. Maybe, maybe not, another Nobel in the making. We welcomed them. They said they were happy to leave. Re the situation, unprovoked, : "they made it, let them have it".. Such words of dissociation surprised us and we had no response.

yomtov said...

Thank you, Mr. Avishai, for posting the letter from Asaf.

The fact that one of your readers cannot understand that there is a connection between opposition to the settlement enterprise and the rights of Arab property owners is telling. What Shabtai Tevet called in 1969 the "cursed blessing" has run its full course and has corrupted the thinking of an entire generation in Israel and its supporters abroad.

The leftists who went to Anatot are the ones who say: "WE made it, we're going to undo it" and deserve admiration and support.

Natalie Gorvine said...

I agree with what yomtov has said. It is also totally fitting for the story to be available for us all before Yom Kippur. Thank you, Asaf Sharon, and thank you, Bernard Avishai. May we all be "sealed" for a better year. G'mar chatima tova.

Y. Ben-David said...

If Dr Avishai has the right to his Nakba-evacuated Arab house in Jerusalem, then Jews can live in Anatot. If Jews have no right to live in Anatot, then Dr Avishai has no right to that Arab house in Jerusalem, and Jews have no right to live in Tel Aviv, either.

Potter said...

Ben-David- why don't you recognize international law?--why don't you recognize partition?-- why don't you recognize that Israel was legitimized as a state after partition, after the War of Independence with new lines?-- Why don't you recognize that there were many Arabs living on this land that were displaced as a result-- Why don't you recognize that the '67 war displaced even more Arabs-- Why don't you accept that they are willing to settle for part of what you call the Holy Land and part of what they believe is theirs for equally valid reasons and that what we are talking about NOW is a COMPROMISE?? I am so tired of your stubborn tone deafness.

Y. Ben-David said...

International Law says the settlements ARE NOT ILLEGAL. The international law dept. of the US State Dept ruled this. The Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition.
The Arabs are NOT willing to recognize any Jewish claim to ANY territory. They are willing to recognize a state within the pre-67 lines (i.e. pre-67 Israel) on condition that it become an ARAB state (i.e. the "right of return" of the refugees).
Prof. Shlomo Avineri, a veteran member of the Labor Party "peace camp" wrote a couple of days ago in Ha'aretz, the "peace camp" newspaper that there is NO chance of any peace agreement being reached. Even the hard-core Left is now finally waking up to the reality. It is time for you to do so as well.

Potter said...

Ben David- (it's been said many times and it applies in particular to your arguments) you are entitled to your opinion, but not entitled to your own facts. The settlements have been ruled overwhelmingly to be illegal, including by the US. We DO NOT accept them as legal. Even in Israel they have been ruled illegal. (read the references too). You are clinging to a self-serving minority opinion.

Israeli's, such as yourself who reject international law, undermine Israeli legitimacy.

Blatantly false, as well, is the claim, an excuse, that Arabs are not willing to recognize Israel. They do now, they will formally with peace. See the Arab Peace Initiative first proposed in 2002 and various Palestinian declarations ( including this last month at the UN) and statements over the years.

Avineri's opinion column was MOSTLY taking into account the leadership in Israel and the refusal to freeze settlements.

Avineri: With regard to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech, better not to waste words.....If an Olmert-Livni government could not reach an agreement with Abbas after almost two years of serious and responsible discussions, clearly an agreement is not to be expected with the Netanyahu government......

Avineri has also lost faith in Obama,in thrall to the Israel lobby at this point, his inability to bridge the gaps with an recalcitrant Netanyahu owned by his extremists. That Avineri is an old disillusioned leftist registers the loss of hope in that part of the left, but not the still present and increasing urgency of a peace agreement.

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