Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Odeh exposes the Myth of Peres and Israel’s “Peace Camp”

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | October 6, 2016

As world leaders congregated in Jerusalem last weekend to eulogise Shimon Peres as a “great peacemaker”, the peace camp of which he was the figurehead went to war against its main Palestinian partner in Israel.

Ayman Odeh, head of the only Jewish-Arab party in the Israeli legislature, is the most prominent representative of Israel’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens. He also serves as chairman of a coalition called the Joint List, formed with other Palestinian parties, that is now the third largest in parliament.

Mr Odeh, nonetheless, enraged the Israeli Jewish public by refusing to attend Peres’s funeral.

The Joint List leader is known for his efforts to build bridges to deprived and vulnerable Jewish communities. He is committed to strengthening trust between Jews and Palestinians, rather than emphasising national conflict.

His advocacy for a new civic identity – abolishing Israel’s institutionalised ethnic categories of Jew and Arab – earned him a place last year on the top 100 global thinkers list compiled by Foreign Policy magazine.

So how, the Israeli media lamented, could he not pay his last respects to Peres, architect of the Oslo Accords?

Mr Odeh’s boycott of the funeral was all the more shocking to Israelis because Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, came to bid Peres farewell – after Israel issued him a rare permit to enter Jerusalem. Pictures of Mr Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands only underscored Mr Odeh’s absence.

But even that was hastily exploited to augment Peres’s beatification. If Peres had long proved his dedication to the cause of peace, Mr Odeh’s treatment of him in death confirmed that Israel lacked a Palestinian partner even inside Israel.

That is a narrative that Israeli Jews are only too familiar with. After the Oslo process collapsed at the Camp David summit in 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak – then head of the peace camp – accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of being “no partner for peace”. This paved the way to the Second Intifada.

In similar fashion, Jewish politicians associated with the peace movement turned their fire on Mr Odeh. Erel Margalit, a member of parliament in the centre-left Zionist Union, accused him of “sticking a finger in the eyes” of the peace camp.

By contrast, for most Palestinians, it was Mr Abbas’s attendance at the funeral, not Mr Odeh’s boycott, that was baffling.

While Mr Odeh acknowledged the private grief of the Peres family, he argued that the funeral was “part of a national day of mourning in which I have no place”.

The mythical Peres honoured by the world is unrecognisable to Palestinians. They regard even his most visible achievement, the Oslo Accords, as a cynical trap. It was never designed to lead to a viable Palestinian state, but rather leave the PA in a twilight zone of semi-sovereignty, acting as the servile police force of the occupation.

In addition, Israel’s Palestinian citizens like Mr Odeh found that Oslo intentionally severed them from their kin in the occupied territories, culminating in a steel-and-concrete separation barrier that further fragmented the Palestinian people.

The domestic narrative about Peres excluded Israel’s Palestinian citizens no less, said Mr Odeh.

Eulogies in Hebrew extolled a Peres who armed Israeli soldiers to destroy the Palestinian homeland in the Nakba of 1948; who then oversaw two decades of internal military repression against Israel’s Palestinian minority; who built a nuclear bomb to ensure Israel could bully the entire Middle East; and who engineered the settlement project as a way to make the occupation irreversible.

These were reasons enough for not attending. But Mr Odeh expressed a more personal concern.

Given their unique position inside Israel, Palestinian citizens had connected with the “historic pain” of a long-persecuted people. But that empathy had never been reciprocated – even by Israel’s peace camp.

Mr Odeh was not referring only to the Nakba. Peres’s funeral coincided with the anniversary of events at the start of the Second Intifada when Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. Among them was the brother of Mr Odeh’s wife.

Although a later judicial inquiry concluded that the police had an institutional view of Israel’s Palestinian minority as an enemy, no officers were indicted. Neither was there a formal apology, even from ­Peres, who served for many years as president.

In choosing to attend the funeral, Mr Abbas doubtless had to weigh up many factors, including his international standing, diplomatic protocol and bolstering his own legacy as a peacemaker.

The major consideration for Mr Odeh, by contrast, was whether his presence might further indulge the self-delusions and moral evasions of Israel’s self-styled peace camp.

The correctness of his decision was driven home soon enough. On Tuesday, the Israeli media reported that Isaac Herzog, head of the peace bloc in parliament led by the Zionist Union, was close to a deal to join the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

If Mr Herzog does decide to shore up a government committed to militarism and entrenching the occupation, he will be following a path well trodden by Peres himself.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Israel, an Ugly Tide sweeps over Palestinians

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | April 25, 2016

In Israel’s evermore tribal politics, there is no such thing as a “good” Arab – and the worst failing in a Jew is to be unmasked as an “Arab lover”. Or so was the message last week from Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s so-called peace camp. The shock waves of popular anger at the recent indictment of an Israeli army medic, Elor Azaria, on a charge of “negligent homicide” are being felt across Israel’s political landscape.

Most Israeli Jews bitterly resent the soldier being put on trial, even though Azaria was caught on camera firing a bullet into the head of a badly injured Palestinian, Abdel Fattah Al Sharif.

In the current climate, Herzog and his opposition party Zionist Union have found themselves highly uncomfortable at having in their midst a single non-Jewish legislator.

Zuheir Bahloul, an accommodating figure who made his name as a sportscaster before entering politics, belongs to the minority of 1.7 million Palestinian citizens, one in five of the population.

Unlike most of Israel’s Palestinian politicians, he preferred to join a Zionist party than one of several specifically Arab parties. Nonetheless, he embarrassed colleagues by briefly pricking the bubble of unreason cocooning the country.

Attacks on soldiers were wrong, said Bahloul, but a Palestinian such as Al Sharif – who tried to stab soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron – was not a “terrorist” by any normal definition. Terrorists target civilians, Bahloul noted, not soldiers enforcing an illegal occupation.

Other Zionist Union MPs raced to disown Bahloul, while Herzog warned that the party was unelectable as long as it was seen as full of “Arab lovers”.

Bahloul is hardly the first Palestinian politician in Israel to find himself denounced as a “bad” Arab. But the others have mostly sinned by demanding an end to Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Israel is currently promulgating a law to oust such dissenters from the parliament.

Now the earth is shifting beneath the feet of formerly “good Arabs” such as Bahloul, the small number who cling to the belief that a self-declared Jewish state can be fair to them.

It is no longer just the state’s Jewishness that is sacrosanct. The occupation is too.

Salim Joubran, the only Palestinian judge in the supreme court, fell foul of this creed last week as the court considered an appeal from Raed Salah, leader of the northern Islamic Movement, against his jail sentence for incitement to violence.

There is almost continual incitement by Jewish political and religious leaders, but indictments are almost unheard of. Two rabbis who wrote a book, the King’s Torah, calling for the killing of Palestinian babies were investigated but not charged.

In his minority opinion, Joubran thought it reasonable to observe that Salah’s remark urging the Arab world to support the Palestinians with a “global intifada” to protect Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites under occupation was more rhetorical than a call to arms.

He was wrong. Israelis took to social media calling for an “intifada” against both him and the supreme court.

The ugly political tide turning against the most moderate and pragmatic elements in Israel’s Palestinian minority was also exemplified by threats against Ayman Odeh, leader of the only joint Jewish-Arab party in the parliament.

Odeh’s crime was to describe the assassinations of Palestinian leaders by the Shin Bet intelligence service as “executions without trial”.

Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet head who is now a legislator in the ruling Likud party, wondered aloud about the merits of assassinating Odeh, before concluding it was not worth “wasting the ammunition”. Dichter knows there is no danger he will face a trial for incitement to violence.

Meanwhile, a TV investigation last week turned a critical lens on the late Rehavam Zeevi, a hero of the occupation. The programme revealed that the general had serially raped and assaulted women under his command, and used underworld connections to silence critics.

Tellingly, however, while the programme highlighted his crimes against Jews, it was largely untroubled by his many well-documented abuses of Palestinians.

Zeevi once proudly boasted of killing prisoners, and famously terrorised Palestinians by flying over their villages with a Palestinian corpse hanging from his helicopter undercarriage.

Later he sat in government as head of a party calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.

When he was assassinated by Palestinians in 2001, he was quickly beatified. Scores of roads and parks are named after him, and a commemoration law requires that his “legacy and values” be taught in schools.

The anti-Arab values Zeevi embodied are in no danger of being discarded. Rather, they are being entrenched. Today, the definition of a “bad Arab” stretches from those, such as Al Sharif, who take up arms against the occupation to those, such as Bahloul, who do nothing more than raise their voice against it.

The trigger-happy soldier Elor Azaria and the peace camp leader Isaac Herzog have more in common than either might wish to admit. In their different ways, both have helped to turn all Palestinians into outcasts – and crush any hope of concessions from Israel to peace.

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment