Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Yuval Ben Ami, City Mouse Online
It’s not only the right to boycott that artists in israel fight for, but for the right to support those who want to boycott. Yuval Ben Ami sat in front of Romi Abulaffia’s Camera and refused to be silent.
I have a sympathy for people who boycott in Tel Aviv. In fact, Meir Viltir, Rona Keinan, David Tratcover, Alex Libak, Yossi Pollak and the rest of the artists joined the struggle against the Boycott Law, as far as I know, haven’t boycotted anyone, and didn’t even support the boycotters, al they did was rise up for our right to support boycotters. It’s a rather strange right, trivial on one hand, and on the other, roles of our tongue as a bitter joke. Maybe only artists have the sufficiently developed imagination to even deal with such a ridiculous trial as this.
Those who side with the law often explain that boycotting is a legitimate tool to solving problems. Only a few days ago the Minister of Education quoted his daughter,Daniela, in an article published on his website. “To boycott is to ignore,” said the daughter, “it obviously isn’t a way to solve things. It’s childish.” In the article Sa’ar explains that Daniela is someone who’s counter-boycotting Elvis Costello, who cancelled his performance in Israel this year, and refuses to listen to his music. How absurd.
Is Daniela’s boycott childish? Yes. Muzzling Israeli citizens is also childish. Moreover: The occupation, which the boycotters are opposing, in culture, education and trade, is completely childish. But for those who wish to protect it at any price, it’s easy to call those fighting it infantile, and to use this alleged infantilism as an excuse to legalize a severe sabotage to the freedom of speech.
This sabotage has already passed a first reading in the Knesset. It will hurt, among others, the Ariel Culture Center boycotters, Israelis who’ll take part in building the Palestinian city Rawabi who committed not to use settlement products- not Israeli products, settlement products. A state that prevents its citizens from legitimate, nonviolent protestation activities, is a state that demands rage and admonishment, silence towards it and loud criticism at it. It’s not childish, it’s maturity.
The artists rising up in the face of the Boycott Law aren’t buying cheap talk that’s meant to disorient the Israeli public and convince it that hurting its freedoms, serves it. This is why I joined them, not as an artist, but as an extra. Isat in from of Romi Abulaffia’s camera and said the words “yes, we’ll continue to resist occupation.” If I could have added a sentence, I would have said the words “thank you Elvise Costello, that you contributed to the creation of a discourse in Israel, we’ll continue and try to preserve it, even when it comes to our freedoms it will focus on the issue: The criminal and violent theft of another people’s freedom, that has yet to end after decades.”
In Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona, an actress decides to stop her monologue, as she stands in front of her audience. She just comes to a silence, and it arouses a scandal. Artists have joined the campaign out of an understanding that non-creation has a power of its own, and that’s why boycotts are extremely valuable. Those who create hear, don’t have the ability to take a stand my coming to a silence, they are unable to boycott the Israeli audience, which is their audience. That’s why, when the silence is forced upon them with legal means, they know that we’re all in danger and that they must open their mouths.
Now is the time to really speak up, to combine the protest within the art-work, and to create fearlessly from within the rage, not “before it’s too late,” because it may just already be too late. It’s possible that Israel may be able to protect it’s democratic treasure and end the disgrace, but it’s also a possibility that the works we produce today will cost us dearly in a lower future. That is exactly why they must be created.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Artists Against the Boycott Law: “This is Suicide”
A list of artists are joining the struggle against the Boycott Law that passed in the Knesset first reading. Among them Israel Prize laureate David Tratcover, singer Rona Keinan, poet Meir Vizltir and others. Keinan: “It’s scary, it’s dangerous and we can’t let this happen.” Author Seffi Richlevski: “Israel is criminal.”
Artists, creators and intellectuals join the struggle, organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace, against the Boycott Law. Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin and Yisrael Beitenu’s MK David Rotem’s bill proposal, that passed first reading yesterday (Mon) and was widely criticized, determines that those who hurt the state of Israel with boycott will be imposed with compensation fines.
The bill, say the people of human rights organizations active in Israel, is among others directed at those who call for a consumer boycott of settlement products, as well as actors who refused to performing Ariel. In a letter sent to head of Knesset and its members, 53 different organizations wrote: “Instead of conducting a democratic debate on the issues of the day in the Israeli public, this bill silences political opponents and blocks the option of public debate.”
Among the list of artists that joined the public outcry today (Tue) are poet Meir Vizltir, musitian Rona Keinan, author Nili Landsman, Israel Prize laureate David Tratcover, actress Einat Weitzman, actor Yossi Pollak and author Seffi Richlevski. As part of the protest, the artists participated in short videos, directed by actress Romi Abulaffia, that will all be part of a campaign called “We’ll Continue Resisting Occupation.”
The Coalition of Women for Peace say that the goal of the campaign is to distribute it in social networks, explaining that anti-democratic laws won’t deter and won’t silence the rising resistance to the occupation. “We won’t obey to the attempt of coercing our cooperation with the anti-democratic and illegal control system that the Israeli government has created outside its borders, in the occupied territories.”
Keinan: “A Dangerous and Miserable Pattern”
Singer Rona Keinan that participated in the campaign today told Ynet: “SIlence is not an option anymore. We don’t have the option not to take a side. It’s scary, it’s dangerous, we can’t let this happen. I want to stay in this place and one day raise a family, and that’s why I can’t sit and do nothing. I must do my part in a small and symbolic attempt as it may be to change this miserable pattern that’s gone on for far to long under this government.”
“I know that even if this law falls through, others will come. It’s a dangerous pattern and as long as I have an option to speak out, I‘ll speak out and join those that speak out, I’ll shoulder the struggle and be in solidarity. I’ll do all I can with the limited tools at my disposal.”
The poet, Meir Vizeltar, who has avoided participating in rallies in the past few years, has also joined the campaign. “In the past years I don’t go to demonstrations and I don’t sign petitions because I’ve reached the conclusion that their role in Israeli culture is to give people that take part in them a feeling that they’re OK, that they’re enlightened. It’s whitewashing, and I don’t want to whitewash.”
“Since I don’t have the energy to participate in real political activity about the things I believe in, I take the role of that who stands on the balcony and watches Rome burn. But here, when I was approached, I decided to accede because sometimes you need to break principles.”
In the video, Vizeltar speaks about the law: “If this law passes and a few other paranoid laws that are being cooked up in Yisrael Beitenu and the Likud, then the state will become a true state of oppression. Not only to the occupied but to its own citizens and even its Tel Avivians. The current leadership likes to talk about the state as a “villa in the jungle”, but we’re being pushed to becoming much worse. A fortress on the seashore. A crusader’s fortress on the seashore, with the help of such laws.”
Richlevski: “This is Settlement Dictatorship Law”
Author Seffi Richlevski, also filmed for the campaign told Ynet: “This isn’t the boycott law, but the settlement dictatorship law. This bill demands, among other things, not to avoid cultural connection to an area under the control of Israel, when they mean the Territories. If I see 5 men raping a young woman and refuse to take part, I’m not boycotting them, I’m avoiding perpetrating a criminal offense.”
“the state of Israel, that builds out side its territory, has been a criminal state for years now. The government of Israel has turned insanity into its banner and now it’s saying that all those who won’t hold up this banner is a criminal. The situation is to the contrary. The anti-legal has turned into the normal, presumably. Forcing people to commit criminal offenses is loathsome and dictatorial and we only need look at what is happening around us. Libya also has laws and they aren’t democratic.”
“In a situation in which dictatorships of the area are collapsing one by one, those who think Israel will be allowed to continue with what it does in the Territories, is mistaken. Saying Hebron is “here” is a suicidal act. The fait of the colonial Israel is to disappear and those who claim the Territories and Israel are one in the same is giving up the continuation of Israel’s existence. It’s an existential question, not just a moral one. The occupation isn’t Israel, but its perversion. My patriotism is dedicated to the Israeli democracy and not to a dictatorial regime, and it’s against that that we should fight.”
The Coalition of Women for Peace stated today that the joining of the artists is especially significant and relevant, because the opening of the Ariel Culture Center and the artists’ letter that was exposed on Ynet are the main catalysts to the bill. “The artists’ letter reinvigorated the silenced discourse of the legitimacy of the occupation.”
The dramaturgist Vardit Shalfi, among the initiators of the artists’ letter, which created the storm, told Ynet: “Instead of debating the legitimacy of the settlements, the legitimacy of the people who protest the settlements is being debated. I’m happy that our protest, as expressed in the two artists’ letters, last summer, opened a public debate that destabilizes distorted views that some are asking to root as norm.”
Sunday, June 22nd, 2008
Friday, January 4th, 2008
(Originally published in the Jerusalem Post)
At first glance, it appears to be a regular coffee and chitchat among some dear old friends, but on closer inspection, the bulging scrapbook brimming with newspaper clippings and the swift turn in the light conversation clearly indicates that these three women – Dafna Kaminer, Gila Svirski and Nora Bendarsky – have come here with much more serious business in mind.
“We are the conscience of the Israeli people,” states Kaminer, a petite grey-haired immigrant from Detroit, Michigan, in a plain and serious tone. “We remind people every week that there is an occupation and it still has not ended.”
The occupation she is referring to is Israel’s “control” over Palestinian lands, the people are the citizens of Israel and the every week is pretty much every Friday for the past 20 years when Kaminer, along with hundreds of other women, has stood in Jerusalem’s Paris Square holding a silent vigil as one of the notorious and highly criticized Women in Black.
“I believe that our voice also speaks out to the Palestinian people; it shows them that there is hope and that there is a true partner on the Israeli side,” joins in Svirski, also originally from the US, who joined Women in Black a few weeks after the initiative first started. “[The vigils] also send a message out to the international community that not everyone in Israel shares the same views as our prime minister.”
And Bendarsky, who made aliya from Argentina in the 1970s, adds: “There is something very important in having a constant message and being there every week. It makes us stronger.”
Stronger maybe, but none of the women really knows how to answer the question of whether Women in Black has succeeded or failed in its 20 years of activism. On the one hand, the focus of its ongoing demonstration – the conflict with the Palestinians – continues, but on the other, the movement they all helped to establish has flourished in the face of its critics, public opinion has softened to its cause and its tactics have even been adopted by thousands of non-Israeli women in hundreds of countries. Women, who for whatever reason, personal or national, regularly take to the streets in a silent vigil to protest violence, war and occupation.
“I am happy to say I am a Zionist and love my country and that is why I am a women in black,” says Svirski. “Different women have different responses and this is mine.”
“I AM SURPRISED that they are still around,” comments Shifra Hoffman, founder of Victims of Arab Terror and one of the movement’s harshest critics. “I was sure that after all the terror attacks they would not continue with their protest.”
“I think it is tragic that Jews don’t feel the pain of other Jews,” continues Hoffman, who held her own vigil opposite Women in Black during the early 1990s. “I believe that they don’t want to admit they’ve been wrong about this all along. I mean, how can Jews actively undermine the Jewish state? We have enough enemies; we don’t need women in black too.”
Another critic, Nadia Matar, co-chair of the Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, says Women in Black is a fringe organization and “does not represent the views of the majority of the people in this country.”
“These are the ideas of the extreme left wing, of women who quite clearly work for the Arab cause,” she says, adding that it is solely down to media attention that has made it appear as though Women in Black is a large and successful group.
However, Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig, former head of Bar-Ilan University’s Political Studies Department and founder of its communications program, says that the group has been a peripheral success, mainly in “raising public consciousness of Israel’s conquest in the territories.”
“They have added a moral argument to the situation here,” he observes, adding that over the past 20 years there has been a significant shift in public opinion regarding Israel’s place in the West Bank and Gaza and that Women in Black had a “slight influence” on that change.
At the same time, continues Lehman-Wilzig, “their protests had little impact on changing government policy. In order for a protest to be really effective and influential, its tactics must raise media attention. Doing the same thing every week for a long period of time means that after a while the media is no longer interested.”
Rather, he says, “I believe that it is more a way of cleansing one’s own conscience and giving people a non-aggressive way of crying out.”
WOMEN IN Black held its first Jerusalem vigil in January 1988, just weeks after the first intifada broke out.
“When we first started, people did not really react to us, they were just surprised to see us standing there,” recalls Kaminer, explaining that the forerunner of Women in Black was an early 1980s group called Dai Lakibush or End the Occupation.
“The women of Dai Lakibush decided to break off and do something on their own when the first intifada broke out. The idea was simple. We were just to stand there with banners that read ‘End the Occupation.'”
Their methods – wearing all black and standing in a non-responsive silent protest – were also inspired by such groups as the Black Sash in South Africa and the Argentinean Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. Black Sash started in the 1950s, but was active through to the 1990s. The women wore a black sash over their clothes. The Argentinean group, which wore white, was active in the 1970s-1980s.
Svirski’s recollections of the public’s initial reaction to their protest are slightly different than Kaminer’s.
“I think we were threatening from the beginning,” she says, highlighting that calling for an end to the occupation back then was a rather new and radical message. “It was also one of the first instances where women stood in public with a political message; the only other time women had stood together in public they were prostitutes.”
She says that during the movement’s first few years, the criticisms it received were “focused on our gender and sexual notions.”
“They called us whores and other things that cannot be printed in the newspaper. But later on, people stopped focusing on the fact that we were women and more on our message.”
While that might have been a positive sign, the verbal criticism soon turned physical.
“As well as people heckling us,” recalls Kaminer, “some tried to tear down our signs.”
The women highlight one incident in which the girlfriend of a Kach supporter infiltrated the movement, joining the vigil for several weeks and then reporting back to her boyfriend on the group’s activities.
“She told them that we were having a meeting and they showed up and wrecked it,” remembers Svirski. “Afterward, the boyfriend was quoted in the newspapers as saying that he’d found out about our meeting from his girlfriend, who had to ‘suffer standing with us for several weeks.’
“It was a period of intense violence against us. Kach and Kahane Chai were only two of the movements against us, but they were not the only ones. One group published a flyer calling for people to ‘take care of the black widows.’ Another group distributed to its members the names, addresses and phone numbers of eight of us. We were harassed, with one woman even having a hearse delivered to her house when, of course, she was still alive. I had someone call me telling me they knew where my children went to school and that they would come and get them.”
DESPITE THE threats at home and the constant catcalls when they were out on the streets, Svirski, Kaminer, Bendarsky and hundreds of other Jerusalem women continued with their weekly protest.
“It is an easy way for women to show their opinions, to just stand on a street corner in silence [holding a sign],” points out Svirski, adding that it did not take long for other women around the country to set up similar protests.
Women in Haifa and Tel Aviv, who had heard about the Jerusalem demonstrations, starting holding their own vigils, she says. Then, slowly, women in outlying areas joined in and by the end of the first year, a national conference was attended by more than 500 women.
While at its strongest moments Women in Black could boast more than 100 protesters a week, as with any long-term political activist movement, the group’s membership figures reflected the ups and downs of the conflict it was demonstrating against.
Events such as the Gulf War in 1991 and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 saw many women turning away from the cause either because they no longer believed in the central message or because they had become apathetic. With the outbreak of the second intifada, some women decided that Women in Black’s methods were not enough and left to join other women’s groups, such as Machsom Watch or the Coalition of Women for Peace.
Today, Kaminer, Svirksi and Bendarsky say that roughly 30 women join them on a regular basis.
“Our message is not passé, it is still relevant,” claims Svirski. “One of the most common responses to our activities these days is people asking: ‘What occupation?’ It’s been 40 years now and many people here have been born into this situation; they don’t even realize that Israel is an occupier.”
And she is adamant that their work through the years has been successful.
“There has been a shift in public opinion. Today, two-thirds of Israelis believe that we have to get out of the West Bank. They realize that the Palestinians are partners for peace and that we have to talk to them whether we want to or not.”
Wednesday, August 16th, 2006
(Title: “War No!” in Russian and Arabic. Translated from Ha’aretz, 10 August 2006)
At the vanguard of the radical left protest against the war are two women – an Arab and an immigrant from the former Soviet Union – leading the demonstrations with “End the War” chants in Arabic and Russian.
The evening before we met, Khulood Badawi escaped the horrors of war to go to the al-Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem. But even escapism is not what it used to be. She was watching the Lebanese movie “The Kite”, directed by a friend’s sister, in which a young Lebanese woman falls in love with a Druze soldier from Israel during the first Lebanon War. At the height of the story, her cell phones began to ring. The news that Katyusha rockets had fallen on Haifa quickly moved through the theater. Badawi, who had lived in Haifa for several years, fled the theater to watch the TV news, where she recognized the offices of al-Ittihad, the newspaper of Hadash, Badawi’s political party. Among the ruins she saw many offices she knew, and began calling her friends. [photo from Ha’aretz by Guy Ravitz]
At that same moment, Yana Knopova [photo, left], who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine 11 years ago as a young Zionist activist, was fielding phone calls to and from friends and colleagues. The rockets had fallen not far from the Haifa apartment she shares with Abir Kopty, the spokeswoman for the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel, and in the heart of the neighborhood of many Arabs and Jews who share her uncommon political path.
The two met the next day in what they call “the Tel Aviv bubble”, where they have been orchestrating the key protests against the war on behalf of the Coalition of Women for Peace and Ta’ayush. An Arab and a Russian. Another of the strange phenomena to emerge from this war.
The 30-year-old Badawi has a long history of political activism: The former militant chair of the Association of Arab University Students in Israel, Badawi is today a field worker for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. The 25-year-old Knopova, a student of psychology at Haifa University [and coordinator of the Coalition of Women for Peace], strayed far from the Zionist dream though she had worked five years for the Jewish Agency,
In those years, she believed that “the left was only the Meretz Party”, as she put it, and then she discovered what she calls the lies and arrogance on which Israel is based, which not only create primitive men in Israel, but undermine the judgment of the entire country. Thus she found her way to a political and social home in the radical left.
The Bomb and the Hope
Clearly the sense of marginalization in Israeli society – which views Arabs as the enemy and ignores immigrants – strengthened the solidarity between them. “The police see Khulood as a natural enemy,” says Knopova with a bitter smile; “while in the exact same situation, the police refuse to see me as an enemy. They also live with the stereotype that there are no Russians in the left. Khulood is always dangerous, I am never dangerous; Khulood is a demographic time-bomb, I am a demographic hope. This is an approach that regards the wombs of us both as in the service of the state, and we will not give them this pleasure.” [photo left of Knopova by Yair Gil]
Over the past month, they have orchestrated all the demonstrations of the left, and held them in three languages – Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. Based on the number of calls coming in to Badawi’s three cell phones, one would think that opposition to the war is the new consensus; based on the calls to Knopova in Russian throughout our conversation, one would think that a million Russian speakers in Israel changed their political views.
This is not true, of course, but there is no doubt that something different and new is happening. Much has already been said about the uniqueness of this war; the fact that at the vanguard of protest are two women – an Arab and an immigrant from the former Soviet Union – is without a doubt another unique element. Everything is new about this: Most of the protest in Israel, including that of the more left-wing activists, used to spring from the pool of Ashkenazi Jewish men. Not anymore. Today the protest of this war is being led to a large extent by women.
And that is not the only difference. In the past, Arab citizens of Israel refrained from going to demonstrations in Tel Aviv during a war. At most, they would make do with token representation in the later stages of protest. They would also generally hold their demonstrations in Arab towns. Not any more. From the very first week, the Arabs became equal partners to the demonstrations in Tel Aviv. Thousands of Katyusha rockets falling on them erased the reluctance of the past. In their eyes, this is no longer a Jewish war, but a civilian war in which they have an equal right to make themselves heard. Badawi says that they deliberately bring their voices to Tel Aviv, which is seen as the capital of Israel. [photo left of Badawi by GS]
Another kind of change is transpiring among Russian speakers, considered the hard core of the Israeli right. Once, bringing a few Russian speakers to demonstrations of the Zionist left was considered a big achievement. Today there is a small, but visible and consistent participation of Russian speakers in the protest movement of the radical left. Thus, the Arabs are learning to chant “Vynya Nyet!” (no war), while Russian and Hebrew speakers are chanting “Salaam Na’am, Harb La” (peace yes, war no). It looks like this connection will last long after the voices of war subside.
The Old Left Failed
To Badawi and Knopova, all this seems quite natural. Above all, they feel that the role of women in this protest is obvious. “All the elements of this war bring the issues together – feminism, social justice, class distinctions, environment, and the occupation,” they say; “Women make this connection in a natural way. The Old Left, even Gush Shalom, has not managed to connect these struggles. We do. Even the social justice and political networks of women are stronger. This war is taking place on our social turf, in our homes. As women and citizens, we create an alternative voice of women facing the militant voice of men.”
“This is a male war about honor, both that of the Israel Defense Forces and the Hizbullah,” says Knopova. “Women are less into matters of honor. Russian women instinctively understand that this war is a man’s game. We grew up in that kind of society, and it’s obvious to us.” Perhaps this is why the group of Russian-speaking women in the radical left in Israel grew over a short period from 3 to 200 activists who are now involved in protest.
Knopova explains that even her father now visiting in Israel, a profoundly non-political person, “understood the lie” from watching the Israeli TV channel in Russian. Even he, reports Knopova, noted in amazement that one Israeli soldier seems to be worth the lives of ten Israeli civilians and a hundred Lebanese. “He feels instinctively that something is wrong,” she says, “but the Russians in Israel get brainwashed.”
“Human life is valued in Israel only when it is in uniform,” contends Badawi. “From our perspective, the struggle now is for the dignity of everyone in Israel. Every human being. Arab women have a common socio-economic interest with Russian and Mizrahi women. Our parents will have nothing left to eat after the war. When we speak from the stage – Yana in Russian, I in Arabic – that in itself is a political message. It also conveys to the Arab world that the claims by Israel and the U.S. that Jews and Arabs cannot live together is a false message.”
It is easy to elicit endless criticism from them about Israel, but harder to pry from them statements against the Hizbullah. “Clearly we as feminists cannot support a fundamentalist religious organization,” they agree, “but we do not want our statements to be used manipulatively against our views. Israel gave the Hizbullah reasons to attack, but our struggle is waged on behalf of our own society, to prevent a regional war that would hurt us all.”
Badawi says that this is also the beginning of a way to repair the fractured relations from the events of 2000 [when 13 Arab citizens were killed by the Israeli police], after which it was practically impossible to find Arab partners for political protest. “The age is over when we would accept Jewish partnership at any price,” she says. “Today the connection is genuine, with Jewish activists paying the price of their participation by demonstrations against the wall in Bil’in, refusal to serve in the military, activism at the checkpoints. We have a common fate, but it is different than in the past. These demonstrations can help us out of the severed relations of October 200. Now the Arab-Jewish partnership is egalitarian.”
Only one area remains outside the joint space: the emotional memories. When Badawi talks about the evils of the Separation Fence, her personal baggage takes her back to 1948. Knopova agrees to every word, but has other associations from the collective Jewish memory. “I do not want Germans guarding us within the ghetto that we created for ourselves with the Separation Walls and security zones,” she says. “In the tragic evolution of Zionism, Israel has become the final solution of itself.” Perhaps this is not the text that will accompany the official lighting of torches on Independence Day in Israel, but it is the only moment when the thoughts of the two good friends part ways.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2005
In the 1960s there were many jokes in Israel about the “Voice of the UAR (United Arab Republic) from Cairo”, which broadcasted news in broken Hebrew, written by spokesmen of the Egyptian regime. The absurdity of these broadcasts enhanced the credibility of the IDF spokesmen in our eyes. Today we ourselves are not all that far from the “Voice of the UAR”, and in fluent IDF Hebrew.
On 9 May we heard that the Israeli army accidentally fired a shell into Lebanese territory. Hizbullah responded with a single Katusha shell carefully aimed at the industrial zone of the northern Israel town of Shlomi, which was deserted on the eve of Independence Day. At the end of that week, (May 13), the Israeli army announced that it was forced to shoot at Lebanese shepherds. Hizbullah claimed that the fire was directed at houses in the village of Shuba and returned fire, without casualties.
The IDF responded with tanks and aircraft, and announced that it had destroyed four positions, with casualties on the Hizbullah side. “Security sources” explained that Hizbullah was trying to provoke Israel into a confrontation, and even provided the analysis: Hizbullah was trying to consolidate its position in the approaching local elections in Lebanon. They assured us that Israel was making an effort not to get drawn into an escalation. The newspapers published and the columnists recycled this story and analysis in unison.
Only later, on the following week, did it emerge from Fishman’s column in the Yedioth Ahronoth Saturday Supplement that in reality “in Israel they decided … to test how high Hizbullah was willing to raise the flame this time.” For that reason, two of the positions that were destroyed were outside of the Har Dov sector, within which the conventions established following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon allow the two sides to operate. But “Hizbullah did not take the bait and contented itself with twelve shells that landed outside of the Israeli army posts, without causing damage” . The Israeli army did not give up. At the end of the week it was forced once again to shoot at the anonymous shepherds, and to operate inside Lebanon. Once again the media reported only the Israeli army’s version. No analyst wondered whether it was Israel that was trying to heat up the north, and maybe even hinder Hizbullah in the elections in Lebanon.
Last Wednesday (18 May) there were several mortar attacks on Gush Katif. The “security sources”, followed by the media, explained that this was an attempt by Hamas to improve its position in the upcoming Palestinian elections, but that the Israeli army, for its part, was trying to maintain the calm. It seemed quite natural to all analysts and commentators that Hamas, like Hizbullah, believes that the way to consolidate its strengthening position and to do well in the approaching elections is to create a military confrontation with Israel and thus to incur the wrath of their own people, the USA, and the rest of the world.
No commentator bothered to mention the explanation that Hamas itself provided. A completely different version appeared in the British Guardian, for example. Hamas claims that it is responding to Israel’s constant violations of the Sharm al-Sheikh agreements. What ignited the current eruption was an incident that in their eyes was the Israeli army’s assassination of a Hamas activist at dawn on Wednesday, an incident that the army denies and describes as a “work accident” (i.e. the man blew himself up accidentally, while preparing explosives)  . Even if the media cannot decide between contradictory versions of a specific incident, the fact still remains that the Sharm al-Sheikh understandings determine that Israel will stop all military actions against Palestinians. Nothing of this was realized. The Israeli army continues to arrest, to assassinate, to enter villages and to kill even children.
The political echelon above the army the Prime Minister is careful, for its part, to keep us occupied exclusively with the Disengagement. On Tuesday 17 May, the television news showed Sharon touring the Nitzanim area, rebuking those responsible for preparing the evacuation, and urging them to work without waiting for money or authorization. Only at the end of the week was it casually reported in the column of Barnea and Schiffer in Yediot Ahronot Saturday Supplement that “journalists were not invited on this tour. Instead a camera team from the government’s media office was assigned to the tour. The rebuke was nothing but a show for the camera.” 
The disengagement, as we know, has already been postponed from July to mid-August. When the previous date was set, the claim was that the evacuation had to be completed before the beginning of September, when the children of Gush Katif need to start school. It is likely that there are those who have begun to wonder whether the Disengagement will indeed take place. The Prime Minister found it necessary to produce a propaganda reel to strengthen the faith of the dubious, and it seems completely natural to everyone that the television will broadcast this government media film as independent news.
As with the “Voice of the UAR from Cairo”, the spokesmen of the Israeli regime write the news, the media prints and broadcasts it, and the analysts recycle it. Those who insist on knowing what is really happening, must also read The Guardian and al-Jazeera daily.
|||Alex Fishman, Yediot Aharonot Saturday Supplement, May 20, 2005|
|||Agencies in Gaza, Guardian, May 19, 2005.|
|||Nahun Barnea and Shimon Schiffer, Yediot Aharonot Saturday Supplement, May 20, 2005|
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