Sent: Sunday, June 06, 2010 2:37 PM
Subject: Uri Avneri assaulted by Right Wing Zionists after speaking at peace
really in Tel Aviv, plus his article on the Gaza flotilla an
Tikkun: June 6, 2010
Editor's Note: Shortly after writing the article below, Uri Avnery, leader
of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, was assaulted by Right-wingers in
Israel. The full account appears after his analysis, which he'd prefer you
to read first. Avnery is a frequent contributor to Tikkun Magazine and a
member of the Editorial Advisory Board.
June 5, 2010
Kill a Turk and Rest
ON THE high seas, outside territorial waters, the ship was stopped by the
navy. The commandos stormed it. Hundreds of people on the deck resisted, the
soldiers used force. Some of the passengers were killed, scores injured. The
ship was brought into harbor, the passengers were taken off by force. The
world saw them walking on the quay, men and women, young and old, all of
them worn out, one after another, each being marched between two soldiers…
The ship was called "Exodus 1947". It left France in the hope of breaking
the British blockade, which was imposed to prevent ships loaded with
Holocaust survivors from reaching the shores of Palestine. If it had been
allowed to reach the country, the illegal immigrants would have come ashore
and the British would have sent them to detention camps in Cyprus, as they
had done before. Nobody would have taken any notice of the episode for more
than two days.
But the person in charge was Ernest Bevin, a Labour Party leader, an
arrogant, rude and power-loving British minister. He was not about to let a
bunch of Jews dictate to him. He decided to teach them a lesson the entire
world would witness. "This is a provocation!" he exclaimed, and of course he
was right. The main aim was indeed to create a provocation, in order to draw
the eyes of the world to the British blockade.
What followed is well known: the episode dragged on and on, one stupidity
led to another, the whole world sympathized with the passengers. But the
British did not give in and paid the price. A heavy price.
Many believe that the "Exodus" incident was the turning point in the
struggle for the creation of the State of Israel. Britain collapsed under
the weight of international condemnation and decided to give up its mandate
over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this
decision, but the "Exodus" proved to be the straw that broke the camel's
I AM not the only one who was reminded of this episode this week. Actually,
it was almost impossible not to be reminded of it, especially for those of
us who lived in Palestine at the time and witnessed it.
There are, of course, important differences. Then the passengers were
Holocaust survivors, this time they were peace activists from all over the
world. But then and now the world saw heavily armed soldiers brutally attack
unarmed passengers, who resist with everything that comes to hand, sticks
and bare hands. Then and now it happened on the high seas - 40 km from the
shore then, 65 km now.
In retrospect, the British behavior throughout the affair seems incredibly
stupid. But Bevin was no fool, and the British officers who commanded the
action were not nincompoops. After all, they had just finished a World War
on the winning side.
If they behaved with complete folly from beginning to end, it was the result
of arrogance, insensitivity and boundless contempt for world public opinion.
Ehud Barak is the Israeli Bevin. He is not a fool, either, nor are our top
brass. But they are responsible for a chain of acts of folly, the disastrous
implications of which are hard to assess. Former minister and present
commentator Yossi Sarid called the ministerial "committee of seven", which
decides on security matters, "seven idiots" - and I must protest. It is an
insult to idiots.
THE PREPARATIONS for the flotilla went on for more than a year. Hundreds of
e-mail messages went back and forth. I myself received many dozens. There
was no secret. Everything was out in the open.
There was a lot of time for all our political and military institutions to
prepare for the approach of the ships. The politician consulted. The
soldiers trained. The diplomats reported. The intelligence people did their
Nothing helped. All the decisions were wrong from the first moment to this
moment. And it's not yet the end.
The idea of a flotilla as a means to break the blockade borders on genius.
It placed the Israeli government on the horns of a dilemma - the choice
between several alternatives, all of them bad. Every general hopes to get
his opponent into such a situation.
The alternatives were:
(a) To let the flotilla reach Gaza without hindrance. The cabinet secretary
supported this option. That would have led to the end of the blockade,
because after this flotilla more and larger ones would have come.
(b) To stop the ships in territorial waters, inspect their cargo and make
sure they were not carrying weapons or "terrorists", then let them continue
on their way. That would have aroused some vague protests in the world but
upheld the principle of a blockade.
(c) To capture them on the high seas and bring them to Ashdod, risking a
face-to-face battle with activists on board.
As our governments have always done, when faced with the choice between
several bad alternatives, the Netanyahu government chose the worst.
Anyone who followed the preparations as reported in the media could have
foreseen that they would lead to people being killed and injured. One does
not storm a Turkish ship and expect cute little girls to present one with
flowers. The Turks are not known as people who give in easily.
The orders given to the forces and made public included the three fateful
words: "at any cost". Every soldier knows what these three terrible words
mean. Moreover, on the list of objectives, the consideration for the
passengers appeared only in third place, after safeguarding the safety of
the soldiers and fulfilling the task.
If Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff and the commander of
the navy did not understand that this would lead to killing and wounding
people, then it must be concluded - even by those who were reluctant to
consider this until now - that they are grossly incompetent. They must be
told, in the immortal words of Oliver Cromwell to Parliament: "You have sat
too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let
us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"
THIS EVENT points again to one of the most serious aspects of the situation:
we live in a bubble, in a kind of mental ghetto, which cuts us off and
prevents us from seeing another reality, the one perceived by the rest of
the world. A psychiatrist might judge this to be the symptom of a severe
The propaganda of the government and the army tells a simple story: our
heroic soldiers, determined and sensitive, the elite of the elite, descended
on the ship in order "to talk" and were attacked by a wild and violent
crowd. Official spokesmen repeated again and again the word "lynching".
On the first day, almost all the Israeli media accepted this. After all, it
is clear that we, the Jews, are the victims. Always. That applies to Jewish
soldiers, too. True, we storm a foreign ship at sea, but turn at once into
victims who have no choice but to defend ourselves against violent and
It is impossible not to be reminded of the classic Jewish joke about the
Jewish mother in Russia taking leave of her son, who has been called up to
serve the Czar in the war against Turkey. "Don't overexert yourself'" she
implores him, "Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…"
"But mother," the son interrupts, "What if the Turk kills me?"
"You?" exclaims the mother, "But why? What have you done to him?"
To any normal person, this may sound crazy. Heavily armed soldiers of an
elite commando unit board a ship on the high seas in the middle of the
night, from the sea and from the air - and they are the victims?
But there is a grain of truth there: they are the victims of arrogant and
incompetent commanders, irresponsible politicians and the media fed by them.
And, actually, of the Israeli public, since most of the people voted for
this government or for the opposition, which is no different.
The "Exodus" affair was repeated, but with a change of roles. Now we are
Somewhere, a new Leon Uris is planning to write his next book, "Exodus
2010". A new Otto Preminger is planning a film that will become a
blockbuster. A new Paul Newman will star in it - after all, there is no
shortage of talented Turkish actors.
MORE THAN 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson declared that every nation must
act with a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind". Israeli leaders have
never accepted the wisdom of this maxim. They adhere to the dictum of David
Ben-Gurion: "It is not important what the Gentiles say, it is important what
the Jews do." Perhaps he assumed that the Jews would not act foolishly.
Making enemies of the Turks is more than foolish. For decades, Turkey has
been our closest ally in the region, much more close than is generally
known. Turkey could play, in the future, an important role as a mediator
between Israel and the Arab-Muslim world, between Israel and Syria, and,
yes, even between Israel and Iran. Perhaps we have succeeded now in uniting
the Turkish people against us - and some say that this is the only matter on
which the Turks are now united.
This is Chapter 2 of "Cast Lead". Then we aroused most countries in the
world against us, shocked our few friends and gladdened our enemies. Now we
have done it again, and perhaps with even greater success. World public
opinion is turning against us.
This is a slow process. It resembles the accumulation of water behind a dam.
The water rises slowly, quietly, and the change is hardly noticeable. But
when it reaches a critical level, the dam bursts and the disaster is upon
us. We are steadily approaching this point.
"Kill a Turk and rest," the mother says in the joke. Our government does not
even rest. It seems that they will not stop until they have made enemies of
the last of our friends.
(Parts of this article were published in Ma'ariv, Israel's second largest
THE ASSAULT On AVNERI
"The Government Is Drowning Us All"
Uri Avnery attacked by rightist thugs
A disaster was averted yesterday (June 5) at Tel-Aviv's Museum Square, when
rightists threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the protest rally,
obviously hoping for a panic to break out and cause the protesters to
trample on each other. But the demonstrators remained calm, nobody started
to run and just a small space in the middle of the crowd remained empty. The
speaker did not stop talking even when the cloud of smoke reached the stage.
The audience included many children.
Half an hour later, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom's 86 year
old Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his
wife, Rachel, Adam Keller and his wife Beate Siversmidt. Avnery had just
entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him and tried to drag
him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it
possible for the car to leave. Gush spokesman Adam Keller said: "These
cowards did not dare to attack us when we were many, but they were heroes
when they caught Avnery alone."
The incident took place when the more than 10 thousand demonstrators were
dispersing, after marching through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest
against the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Not only was this one of the largest peace demonstrations for a long time,
but also the first time that all parts of the Israeli peace camp - from Gush
Shalom and Hadash to Peace Now and Meretz - did unite for common action
The main slogan was "The Government Is Drowning All of Us" and "We must Row
towards Peace!" - alluding to the attack on the flotilla. The protesters
called in unison "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!"
The demonstrators assembled at Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square,
where the protest rally was held. Originally, this was planned as a
demonstration against the occupation on its 43th anniversary, and for peace
based on "Two States for Two Peoples" and "Jerusalem - Capital of the Two
States", but recent events turned it mainly into a protest against the
attack on the flotilla.
One of the new sights was the great number of national flags, which were
flown alongside the red flags of Hadash, the green flags of Meretz and the
two-flag emblems of Gush Shalom. Many peace activists have decided that the
national flag should no longer be left to the rightists.
"The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing, which
has been going on throughout the last week," Avnery commented. "A huge
propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible
mistakes made by our political and military leadership, mistakes which are
becoming worse from day to day."
Lying About The Gaza Flotilla Disaster
It's been one lie after another in the US media about the Israeli attack on
the Gaza-bound relief flotilla. No matter that the Israeli media views the
whole incident as a debacle for Israel, in this country the
Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd is on overdrive defending the operation. As
usual, facts don't matter to them.
Except they do.
The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that
the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli
blockade. Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.
In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who
sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to
leave until they were served. Their goal was not really to get breakfast.
It was to end segregation.
That fact is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the "pro-Israel"
lobby is using it as an indictment.
Of course the goal of the flotilla was to break the blockade. Of course
Martin Luther King provoked the civil authorities of the South to break
segregation. Of course the Solidarity movement used workers' rights as a
pretext to break Soviet-imposed Communism.
The bottom line is that the men and women of the flotilla had every right to
attempt to destroy an illegal blockade that Israel had no legal standing to
impose and which was designed to inflict collective punishment on the people
of Gaza. (There is no truth to the story that Israel would have delivered
the goods on the ships to Gaza if asked; the Israelis never made that offer
and, judging by years of precedent, would have blocked any delivery).
As for the Israeli argument that its soldiers were attacked, that is
ridiculous. Israeli commandos were ordered to board a civilian ship in
international waters and the government that sent them claims that the
resisting passengers attacked them without provocation. This is like a
carjacker complaining to the police that the driver bashed him with a
crowbar that was under the seat. Neither carjackers nor hijackers should
expect their victims to acquiesce peacefully.
Here are the facts about life in Gaza today -- facts that only can be
changed by breaking the blockade. These data come from the American Near
East Relief Association (ANERA), which provides relief to Gazans to the
extent permitted by the Israeli (and American) authorities. ANERA is
neither "pro-Israel" nor "pro-Palestinian." It has no political agenda at
all. It merely determines what human needs are and tries to respond to
8 out of 10 Gazans depend on foreign aid to survive.
The World Food Program says Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to
meet basic nutritional needs - yet an average of just 171 trucks worth of
supplies enters Gaza every week,
Clothes that were held in the port of Ashdod for over a year were released
into Gaza but arrived covered with mold and mildew, unusable.
95% of Gaza's water fails World Health Organization standards leaving
thousands of newborns at risk of poisoning.
Anemia for children under the age of 5 is estimated at 48%.
75 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the Mediterranean Sea
every day - because piping and spare parts are not permitted.
During the 2009 bombing:
More than 120,000 jobs were lost as Gaza's industrial zone was destroyed...
15,000 homes and apartments were damaged or destroyed... 1/3 of all schools
None of these can be rebuilt, because construction supplies are kept out by
the Israeli authorities.
Also, check this out from The Economist. It is a partial list of
commodities allowed into Gaza and commodities banned.
So what is the blockade about?
It is not about stopping terrorism. Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel an
indefinite cease-fire in exchange for lifting the blockade. And, on a half
dozen occasions, Israel accepted the deal but did not live up to its side of
it. In fact, the 2009 war began after Israel ignored its commitments under
the Gaza cease-fire agreement, continued the blockade, and then provoked the
resumption of attacks on Sderot through a series of targeted assassinations
of Palestinians (Israel claims that no cease-fire agreement curtails its
right to kill any Palestinian it deems to be a terrorist).
Israel asserts that it will not accept any long-term cease-fire agreement
with Hamas because Hamas does not recognize its right to exist.
But Israel does not need the permission of anyone -- let alone Hamas -- to
exist. All it needs from Hamas is an end to violence and that is precisely
what Hamas is offering, in exchange for lifting the blockade.
This is not to say that Hamas need never recognize Israel. It should. But
it is ridiculous to insist on recognition as a precondition for anything.
Recognition would be the end result of negotiations, not a precondition for
But that is not what Israel wants. It wants to destroy Hamas because it is
a terrorist organization. And that makes sense until one realizes that the
African National Congress, Sinn Fein, the Israeli Irgun, the Algerian FLN
and a host of other resistance movements were called terrorist organizations
before negotiations brought them to power. Former Israeli Prime Ministers
Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both unabashed terrorists prior to
their entrance into respectable politics. And so what? If dealing with
terrorists -- as Israel has repeatedly done with Hezbollah -- will help
achieve a worthy goal, why not do it? After all, if negotiations fail, one
can always walk away.
But Israel will not change its self-defeating policies until we change ours.
And there is no evidence that is happening (at least, not until after the
November elections, for obvious reasons).
For now, our policies are joined at the hip with Israel's. We support the
blockade of Gaza. We oppose any efforts at reconciliation between Fatah and
Hamas. We even back Israel's opposition to the Arab Peace Initiative, which
offers Israel full peace and normalization of relations with every Arab
country in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West
Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
Enough is enough. The Obama administration needs to join the rest of the
world in demanding an end to the Gaza blockade as a first big step toward
the resumption of negotiations.
The attack on the flotilla was one of the most disastrous blunders in
Israel's history. At last, the whole world sees Israel's policy of
collective punishment for what it is -- a means to perpetuate the occupation
forever. Only the United States government has chosed to close its eyes.
The occupation is killing Israel. And we are on the sidelines letting it
happen. Some ally
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