Last week, PM Sharon declared that ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ ended. The image that the government seeks to project is that the fighting is over. This impression is false: Israel continues its policy of assassinations, arrests, curfews, closures, blockades, chases, and searches. While tanks have pulled out of city and town centers, they are now at the outskirts, imposing closures and curfews, and venturing back “according to need” (read: on a daily basis).
Assassinations are routine (featuring now in the back pages of the papers); thousands are incarcerated; in Jenin, thousands are homeless; national and municipal authorities do not function in the absence of an infra-structure, systematically destroyed by the IDF (and vandalized by its soldiers); the flow of food, medicine and other immediate necessities is limited; movement (including ambulances) is severely restricted, virtually impossible; Arafat is still jailed at his quarters. The Palestinian Authority is all but dead, and the occupation is at one of its harshest phases since it began in 1967.
Attempts to Contain opposition
In conjunction with the ‘end of the war’, the government, with the main media in tow, is trying to convince us that we are not only beleaguered by Palestinian terrorism (such as the attack yesterday that left 4 West Bank settlers dead), but also, suffocated by a hostile world. Assaults on Jews in Europe and elsewhere are depicted as anti-Semitic incidents unrelated to the current crisis; the UN’s effort to investigate the events in Jenin, we are told, is a mere anti-Israeli move, as are the voices from Europe that call for withdrawal.
The Israeli government is still debating whether or not it would let a UN ‘Inquiry Team’ visit Jenin, and is negotiating the ‘immunity’ of IDF commanders and soldiers whose testimonies the Team (not Commission) might seek. Rarely have such limitations been set by any country. After the massive bulldozing of evidence, the Team is not very likely to produce ‘hard facts’. The government has already prepared an alibi for itself: any conclusions will be dismissed as biased (because the focus is on the IDF in Jenin, rather than Palestinian terrorism), and unprofessional (due to the absence of a Team member with combat experience in densely populated areas).
The attempt to block an inquiry by the international community goes hand in hand with the government’s effort to silence criticism from within.
* As she was opposing the UN’s request to investigate, Education Minister Limor Livnat rushed to appoint a commission to inquire into the case of a Teachers’ College Principal, who permitted Arab students to honor, in a moment of silence, their brethren fallen in the 1948 Nakba. Livnat also called upon the Government’s Legal Advisor to investigate the circumstances of the letter by Hebrew University professors who supported the refusenik movement. The letter may constitute an incitement to rioting, she suggested, and hence the Legal Advisor should consider indicting the professors.
* Following the interview in which UN’s Terje Larsen expressed his shock at what he saw in Jenin, CEO of Israel’s state TV (Channel 1) instructed the Head of the news section to provide him a daily list of potential interviewees. No interview can now be conducted unless approved. Ben-Gurion’s days in the 1950s, where radio programs had to be approved by the PM Office, are fast approaching.
* The Government’s Legal Advisor, on his part, suggested that Israel declare Terje Larsen a persona non grata.
* Directors of Israel Radio’s Arabic Section have issued new instructions regarding use of language. Certain terms cannot be used anymore in the broadcasts in Arabic (see below).
* A group of 43 lecturers at Ben Gurion University signed a petition to ban Labor Party dove Yossi Beilin, “Chief architect of the Oslo Process”, and cancel his talk at their institution.
* The cancellation of an exhibit of portraits of Palestinian leaders in the Israel Museum, scheduled to open soon, has been announced.
These incidents may be just introductory signals. A state of national paranoia is easy to create, as the media cooperate eagerly.
A Newspeak Fictionary
Below are some examples of the new instructions regarding language use in the Arabic language section of Israel’s state Radio:
1. Dead Arabs cannot be called “victims”; the word is be reserved to Jews only.
2. An announcement by an official Israeli source cannot be called ‘version’; an announcement by a Palestinian source, however, may be a ‘version’.
3. The word ‘occupation’ cannot be used to describe the current situation.
These new terms are new additions to the rich Newspeak vocabulary currently in use, that contains terms like sikkul memukad (‘focused prevention’), a term reserved for IDF assassination of Palestinian leaders and activists.
* A Ta’ayush convoy brings Humanitarian aid to besieged Bethlehem. Last Friday Around 1pm, an Israeli convoy entered the West Bank town of Beit Jala around 1pm. The distances here are tiny — it took us 10 minutes to get there from the outskirts of Jerusalem, through the Israeli settlement of Gilo, past the army and police roadblocks, and into the town. The scenic route took us through one of the most important Occupation Roads — the well-known ‘Tunnels Road’ — built on Palestinian land, bypassing Palestinian villages as it leads to the Gush Etzion cluster of settlements.
Some 200 volunteers in 85 cars, and 4 truckloads of food, clothing and other products entered the village and passed the provisions to the inhabitants of Behtlehem and Beit Jala. Right now, food and humanitarian aid are not a bargaining chip in a virtual dialogue, and hence everything we brought passed safely, under the watchful eyes (and guns) of soldiers and police. We left peacefully, after listening to greeting speeches by the local Mayor, and the PLO representative.
* An anti-Occupation Demonstration: Over 5,000 marched in the middle of Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, carrying anti-occupation slogans. Speeches were given by Arab and Jewish activists, as well as by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Head of Palestine Medical Relief, who greeted the demonstrators (through a cell phone) from encircled Ramallah.
* Yesh Gvul: The refusenik movement is small but growing, now spreading into the regular army. Currently in jail are 6 regular soldiers, and the number of reservists thus far jailed exceeds 40. Thousands (including groups of professors at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University) have signed petitions that support this movement.
* Attempts are made to gather Israeli support for divestment initiatives at various US campuses.