The Price of Occupation (part 2)

- by Amos Gvirtz - 

For part one>>>
In the aftermath of the Six-Day War a new type of Zionism began to take hold: Zealous Zionism. The predominant vision of Zealous Zionism, as opposed to Classic Zionism (I call it Existential Zionism) which regards the establishment of an independent state as the solution for Jewish existence, considers the establishment of the state as the beginning of a messianic process towards the fulfillment of God's biblical promise for a Greater Israel.

We have here two very different types of Zionism. Classic Zionism established the state, through a combination of the immense efforts of its followers and the understanding that the support of the superpowers was crucial both for the establishment of the state and for its continued existence.

Zealous Zionism overwhelmingly believes in the existence of an omnipotent God on whom the existence of the state is based. I cannot but ask how it is possible that Jews can still hold such a belief at all after the Holocaust? Where was God in the Holocaust?!

israeli likud party
Israeli Likud party
Most of the time there is cooperation between these two strains of Zionism. This cooperation however is contingent on the Israeli government's adherence to the policy of annexation of territories. If, as a result of world pressure, there is any retreat or deviation from this policy, the inherent conflict between the two movements erupts.

Fortunately for us at the time of the peace treaty with Egypt, Zealous Zionism's political power was minimal. This rift with Classic Zionism led to Geula Cohen's resignation from the Likud Party and the formation of Tehiya, Zealous Zionism's first political party. At the time of the Oslo accords, the situation was more serious. Now this stream of Zionism had amassed more power, and this touched the very heart of the "divine promise". It ended in the murder of Prime Minister Rabin at the hands of a follower of Zealous Zionism.

But the biggest danger of Zealous Zionism was demonstrated in the Jewish underground's attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (in the eighties). If this had succeeded, the national conflict would have turned into a religious conflict with the entire Muslim world, not only endangering Israel's existence, but the existence of world Jewry. The astonishing thing in this whole affair was the lenience shown towards members of the underground after their arrest. They received luxury conditions while under arrest and in prison and after a short while all were released. Which lobby protects criminals of its own making?!

After the 1967 war the Israeli government understood that all friendly countries would oppose the policy of annexation. So they adopted a strategy of deception and disinformation while pressing forward with a policy of gradual expansion, taking care to avoid fatalities in their systematic infringement of the rights of the occupied population. This served to dull the media and the attention of the world to the creeping takeover of the conquered territories. There are no fatalities in the widespread land stealing, the destruction of homes, in the establishment of the settlements, in the theft of water and minerals, and even not in deportation.

Yitzhak Rabin funeral
Yitzhak Rabin funeral
It is in this same way that the followers of Zealous Zionism treat Israeli citizens They pay lip service, talk of unity and love of Israel, while at the same time threatening civil war if the Israeli government were to pursue a peace settlement. Rabin's assassination was the first shot fired in this war. Meanwhile representatives of Zealous Zionism are entering all areas of government and are working from within to promote a takeover of the territories. Alongside the enormous budgets that the government directs to the settlement endeavor, Zealous Zionists have utilized other very creative and questionable methods to channel further large sums to these ends, in ways that cannot be monitored.

One of the major dangers they present is their hostile takeover of the Likud, Classic Zionism's right-wing government party. Thousands of Zealous Zionism followers are joining the Likud party and threatening candidates for election to the Israeli Parliament that if they do not support them, they will not be elected. They are also putting their own representatives into this list of candidates. However, on election day many of them prefer to support Zealous Zionism's own parties and not the Likud.

We see how a small minority has begun a process of imposing its ideology and turning existential Zionism into Zealous Zionism thereby preventing any possibility of peace and placing the existence of Israel and the Jewish people at risk.

For part one>>>


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The Price of Occupation (part 1)

- by Amos Gvirtz - 

The Separation Wall in Jerusalem
From the outset Zionist leaders were aware that the local population of Palestine would oppose the Zionist enterprise. They directed their efforts to gaining the support of the world powers of the time for the Zionist project. The most famous outcome of these efforts was the Balfour Declaration, wherein the British government expressed its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, on the condition that the local population would not suffer. OR (On condition that the rights of the local population would be safeguarded).

Even after the establishment of the State of Israel, its leaders understood that Israel would not be able to exist in a region that was hostile to its existence without the support of the world powers. They say that in politics "there are no free meals" and so Israel served and serves the interests of those powers which in return provide their support.

In the 1950's Israel succeeded in constraining the Egyptian army to its borders, thereby reducing Egyptian intervention in the Algerian War of Independence. In return a special relationship developed between Israel and France. After France withdrew from Algeria her interests in the Middle East changed. France's priority became the improvement of her relations with the Arab states, and to this end she had to cool her relationship with Israel. France imposed an arms embargo on Israel several days before the outbreak of the 1967 war, an action which severed the special relationship between the two countries.

I consider this same war as marking the commencement of the special relationship between the United States and Israel. In the context of the cold war, the Middle East was divided between the two great powers: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were pro-American while Egypt and Syria were pro-Soviet. In the 1960's Egypt sent an army in support of one of the sides in the civil war then raging in Yemen. The Americans regarded the approach of a pro-Soviet army to the borders of Saudi Arabia and her oil wells as a threat. The intensified military clashes between Israel and Syria on the questions of water and the border, led to Syria's call for help. In response Egypt moved part of her army from Yemen to the Sinai, a move which critically affected the escalation that led to the 1967 war. From America's point of view, Israel had succeeded in distancing a pro-Soviet army from the Saudi borders.

In 1970 war broke out between Jordan's army and the P.L.O.’s armed forces in Jordan. Syria was about to invade Jordan with the P.L.O.'s support. Israel concentrated forces along the Jordanian border and prevented the Syrian invasion, thus defending a pro-American regime against the invasion of a pro-Soviet army.

When US President Carter declared that the United States would not sell arms to regimes that violated human rights, there was concern that the dictators of these states would turn to the Soviets for support. By selling arms to these same states, Israel prevented their defection to the Soviet bloc.

These are three examples whereby serving American interests in the region, has led to the development of the exceptionally close relationship between Israel and the United States.

Golda-Meir & Ariel-Sharon on Yom Kippur war
In the early 1970's, Egypt began a process of a change in orientation, from Soviet to American. In secret talks with Kissinger, they requested that part of the deal would include American pressure on Israel to return the occupied Sinai. Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan refused the Egyptian offer of peace. The other government ministers were not aware of this offer, nor were the Israeli intelligence networks. Kissinger agreed to refrain from applying pressure on Israel, in return for a commitment that in the event that war break out, Israel would not be the first to initiate such a war. Golda and Dayan stood by their promise to Kissinger and did not allow the I.D.F to make a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian and Syrian airfields, and also limited call-up of the forces before the Egyptian-Syrian attack on Israel in October 1973. Only after the airlift of weapons from the US, did Israel succeed in reversing the course of the war in her favor.

The failure of the Yom Kippur War was the result of the refusal of the Labor government, under Golda Meir's leadership, to accept an offer of peace. They preferred to retain the occupied territories over peace, thus endangering Israel's existence.

Only after an unnecessary war with thousands of casualties, and under pressure by President Carter, did the right-wing government accept Sadat's offer of peace.
For part two>>>


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In Search of the Real America • Summer 2017 • Day 3

- by Fred Schlomka - 

The America I knew is collapsing - folding in on itself and apparently reinventing the very basis of its existence. The man in the White House is rocking the world. Regardless of what anyone says, Donald Trump’s stunning victory will forever reshape the political landscape in the USA. I resolve to examine the underlying social fabric that led to this situation.  A cycling tour is my preferred tool.

Day 3
Redwing to Prescott • Minnesota - 22 miles (43km)
Total biked 90 miles (144km)
The first shriek startles me out of my sleeping bag. I can usually sleep through anything but this sounded like a banshee was inside the tent ready to carry off my dead body. I am camped on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, just 30 feet (10 meters) from the water. The train tracks on the other side run along the banks and the trains’ horns must be Minnesota’s response to some long standing and forgotten feud between the states. It went on like this about every 45 minutes - all night.

I sleep fitfully and when I am finally fully awake it is because of the torrential rain hammering on the tent roof, which, together with the periodic train keening, serve to alert me to the coming day. I stay in the tent awhile, get a little work done on the computer and have some breakfast. A wood burning camp stove is not exactly conducive to indoor use so I forego coffee.

Finally I am up. The rain has relaxed a bit so I fold up the wet tent and get everything on the bike. The ‘Harbor Bar’ is closed but the cleaning man is working so I am allowed to use the toilet and freshen up for the day. Jeb the cleaner kindly makes me coffee and refuses payment. A real gentleman. We sit at the bar and chat about cycling and the condition of the world. He used to bike and is quite knowledgeable about the art. Whipping out an enormous late model smartphone he proceeds to show me my trail options for the day, on a cycling App I was not familiar with. The fellow is over 70 years old so this is quite impressive. Finally I’m off.

The first stretch is lightly rolling hills, following the river. I notice a change in housing style and the size of the lots. People seem less affluent on this side of the river. Houses are smaller and more run down. The lawns are still there but not quite so well kept. The vehicles in the driveways are older. Some homes have several cars and trucks to the side or behind the house, some of them with grass growing up around the wheels, obviously not been used for a while. Perhaps never will again. Interspersed between the small bungalows are trailer homes with their wheels hidden by skirting, some with extensions added. They obviously are permanent installations despite the wheels.

It drizzles off and on for a few hours. I don’t mind. I am tightly wrapped in my waterproof gear.

I pass through ‘Diamond Bluff - Unincorporated’, a small hamlet of a few dozens souls that has not grown large enough for the government to grant them the legal status of a town - yet it is distinct enough to have a name. This reminds me our our ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages back home in Israel. However this place obviously has access to utilities and the homes are places where people can live decently - unlike in Israel where the government refuses to allow utilities or even paved roads to be built in the Bedouin communities it regards as superfluous to its grand plans for the ‘Judaisation’ of the country.

Imagine in Wisconsin if the government decided that in communities where the residents were not members of the state religion, that they should be denied the same rights to housing and private property that others enjoy. Imagine if ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ were to be granted only to the white Christian residents? Wait a minute. Wasn’t that the situation here when the Europeans first arrived and the native population and the African slaves were considered barbarians, not to be treated as fully human? And now with this fellow in the White House, these sentiments are once again gaining respectability among otherwise fine upstanding Americans. Some things don’t really change . . . . .

As I mull over these things, the hills start to get steeper as the road turns eastward and the Great River Road climbs over 1,000 feet (330 meters) within a few miles. I push a little at the steepest parts. There’s a plateau at the top with lush farms, wooded areas, and fine views back over the river. I pause to admire a raised bed veggie garden similar to mine back in Jaffa. Then a downhill sweep that gets the heart pumping and the wind racing past my face. Since the rain is off and the road has dried a bit, I release the brakes to see how fast my new bike will go, and to test the stability at high speed. It’s the smoothest ride of any bike I’ve ridden, thanks to Surly and the Hub cycling coop in Minneapolis. It’s hard to believe, but my cycling App registered over 50 MPH (about 80kph) at the steepest parts. A bit scary. I usually go downhill at a more sedate pace.

Finally I arrive in Prescott, a classic riverside town with a broad Main Street and buildings no more than two stories in height. I cycle slowly past the shops, which always give out clues about the particularities of the local culture. For instance the ‘No Name Saloon’ sports a large sign “No guns, knives, or weapons allowed on premises” - and across the street the pawn shop declares “Loans Made on Guns”. Quite a contrast from Israel where private sales of weapons are illegal, yet a person with a licensed gun is usually quite welcome in all pubs or restaurants since it gives the Jewish citizenry a sense of security. Unlike the USA, guns are actually quite hard to get in Israel, all weapons are licensed, and everyone must go through a rigorous training program before a weapons permit is issued. Pistols are rarely hidden and people who have a pistol permit wear their guns openly. Our civil murder rate is minuscule compared to the USA. Little to do with the availability of weapons, but more a matter of national mindset and the character of the people.

I meet Brad at the Twisted Oak Cafe, a comfortable retreat with a fireplace and armchairs. Brad is a sculptor and sheep farmer, a refugee from the city who has found solace in raising a family far from the temptations of urban areas. He seems well integrated into the local culture, chatting easily with more indigenous locals who stop by to say hello.

I settle into the cafe for a work session with hot tea and snacks. Sunita arrives later and I ride back to Saint Paul in the air conditioned comfort of our rental car. It’s been a good day.

- Fred Schlomka is the CEO of the Green Olive Collective. He spends months adventuring on the road with his bicycle each year, while managing the organisation via phone and laptop. - 


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