Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Rio Olympics: Don't ask athletes to set aside politics 'in the spirit of the Olympics'

Dear friends,
please find below an excellent article by Ruby Hamad on recent "bus incident" between the Lebanese and Israeli teams at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. 

As Hamad notes, politics has always been part of sports - including the Olympics. Not only have state actors engaged in political activity to push their geopolitical agenda, it has also been a powerful site of struggle where the politics of resistance have play an important role.

In the article, Hamad addresses Israel's ongoing human rights abuses in both Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, discussing not only it's brutalisation of not only the broader Palestinian population but also Palestinian athletes.  

Hamad's article is a much needed anecdote to the Israeli chutzpah and their latest attempt at crying wolf at the Olympics. 

in solidarity, Kim

Don't ask athletes to set aside politics 'in the spirit of the Olympics'

Nacif Elias carries the Lebanese flag during the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics

The Lebanese Olympic team caused a minor uproar over the weekend when they refused to let their Israeli counterparts board the same bus as them to the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.

First, one has to wonder at the (lack of) wisdom in arranging for the national teams of two countries that have no diplomatic relations and are officially at war to travel in such cosy quarters. According to the Lebanese delegation, the Israelis had a separate designated bus but insisted on trying to board the bus reserved for the Lebanese anyway.

Nonetheless, the Lebanese team has been accused of going against the spirit of the Games, while the Israelis claim to be "enraged and shocked." However, given the history of politics and sport, it should be wholly unsurprising that the Lebanese team would choose the Olympics to stage their minor protest.

The argument that politics should be kept out of the Olympics may be nice in theory but it's baseless in practice. At best it is invoked selectively, with sporting sanctions and boycotts long having been used to pursue political ends.

Most famously, South Africa was formally ejected from the International Olympic Committee in 1970, and banned from virtually all international sports until the end of apartheid in the early 1990s.

Powerful moment: Australia's Peter Norman joins American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium during the famous "Black Power" demonstration

In 1976, 30 African countries staged a last minute boycott of the Montreal Games after New Zealand, whose Rugby team had broken the sanction against South Africa, was permitted to compete.

Then, in 1980, the USA led 65 countries in a boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The USSR returned the favour by boycotting the LA Olympics four years later.

I see an awful lot of sports and politics mixing.

Then there is the use of the Olympics themselves as the site of protest. Although their actions are now hailed as heroic, when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in the black power salute at the '68 Games in Mexico, they were widely reviled. Both men were suspended from the US Olympic team and received death threats.

Would anyone today accuse them of going against the spirit of the Olympics by bringing politics into it, or do we agree that sometimes it is appropriate to mention politics in the sporting arena?

But back to Israel and Lebanon. Far from regarding sport as a sacrosanct politics-free zone, Israel itself, as the far greater power in the region, has long used sports to punish its Arab neighbours for political reasons.

Only last week, Israeli officials prevented the Palestinian Olympic Team chief from leaving the Gaza Strip to join his team in Rio. This was after the team itself was forced to repurchase new sports equipment in Brazil after Israel confiscated their supplies at customs.

For those unaware, Israel controls the borders of both Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, meaning nothing and no one is allowed to enter or leave without Israeli permission (you think all the tunnels underneath Gaza are for terrorists? Think again. Those tunnels are how much of Gaza gets its food, clothes, and machinery).

Given this grossly unfair and unbalanced state of affairs, it's rather unreasonable, if not bordering on the absurd, not to expect a little pushback. But that's not even the worst of it.
If you want to talk about mixing politics and sport, go no further than that time Israeli soldiers decided to amuse themselves by deliberately shooting Palestinian football players in the feet to prevent them being able to play soccer.

Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17 both members of Palestine's national soccer team were shot by soldiers while returning home from training on January 31 this year. Neither will ever play soccer again.

In fact, so many members of the Palestinian soccer team have been jailed, killed, or injured by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), that Israel was threatened with expulsion from FIFA.

Consider this for a moment. Palestinians have no citizenship and cannot enter or leave Palestinian territory without permission from Israel. They live under military occupation and are subject to collective punishment, sudden eviction, confiscation of their land to make way for Jewish settlements, arrest and detention without charge or trial, and the threat of violence both from settlers and the IDF who are able to act with almost total impunity.

For the lucky few, sports represent a lifeline beyond the separation fence in the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. These soccer players were among that lucky few until their future was destroyed by a deliberate act of physical and emotional violence.
Still angry about the bus incident?

Now, before you accuse me of engaging in a spot of what-aboutery, I'm not telling you all this to deflect attention from the Lebanese team's actions. I am pointing out that trying to separate politics from sport – or anything else in this region – is impossible.

The Lebanese team would almost certainly have been subject to severe repercussions back home if they had acted against their country's policy of avoiding all official contact with Israel.

The 2006 Israeli offensive on Lebanon remains a sore point; an assault that again decimated the infrastructure the country had finally rebuilt after its bitter civil war. Israel's role in this war is not forgotten, nor its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, nor the massacres that took place at the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps, nor the fact that Israel occupied the south of the country until 1999.

The expectation that this be cast aside "in the spirit of the Olympics," sails well past the island of naivety and anchors firmly in the realm of privilege.

The privilege of those of us safely ensconced in the west, who have not had to live in a climate of eternal war but, nonetheless, demand those that do to stay silent about it so that we can briefly feel good about how the Olympics "brings us together," despite this not requiring an ounce of risk or sacrifice on our part.

And the privilege of Israel, which, as the superior military power in the region, can effectively act in any manner it likes away from the sporting arena, including inflicting unjust punishment after punishment on Palestinian athletes while the world deliberately averts its eyes, but still assumes the role of the wounded victim when the world decides to cast its selective attention.

Sure, the Olympic Truce claims to promote a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the conflicts that dominate our global relations, but given countries are permitted to compete even when in the midst of catastrophic wars and oppressions, this seems at best symbolic. At worst, it's a hypocritical propaganda tool that chastises athletes staging a mini-protest but allows the participation of a country that has been conducting a 49-year illegal Occupation with no end in sight.

Add this to the violent evictions in Rio's poorest favelas, to make way for the gloss and glamour of the increasingly corporate Olympics, and we have to wonder who and what the Games are really for.

The spirit of the Olympics, indeed.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Darwish vs Lieberman: why Israel's Defense Minister wants Darwish's poems banned.

Dear friends,
Mahmoud Darwish was a voice of his people.
Darwish, who died in 2008 has long been recognised as Palestine's national poet both in Palestine and internationally. His poems expressed the Palestinian people's humanity and were a chronicle of his people's joys, as well as their rage, anger and sadness at their dispossession and oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. 

While Darwish's poems are recognised internationally as resistance art, according to Israel's Defense Minister, Avigador Lieberman, they are no different to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Lieberman, a Russian settler who lives in an illegal Israeli colony on illegally occupied Palestinian land, admonished Israel's Army Radio for broadcasting one of Darwish's most famous poem's, Identity Card. He was joined by
former spokesperson for the the Israeli Occupation Military and now Israeli Cultural Minister, Miri Regev, in calling for Darwish's poems to be banned from Israel's airwaves.
Identity Card (see english translation of the poem below) was written by Darwish in 1964. It recounts the plight of Palestinian refugees living inside the Israeli state in the wake of the 1948 Nakba, when more than 1 million Palestinian were ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist forces.

During the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), which refers to the destruction of Palestinian society, more than 500 Palestinians towns were forcibly depopulation by Zionist terror gangs (who became the base of the official "Israel Defence Force"). More than 750,000 Palestinians fled to neighbouring states, while another 150,000 - 170,000 Palestinians became internally displaced refugees inside the newly created Israeli state.

Between 1949 and 1966, those Palestinians who had become internally displaced were forced to live under Israeli martial law.  These laws, which did not apply to Jewish citizens of the new state of Israel.  Martial law impacted on every aspect of Palestinian life, placing restrictions on Palestinian access to education and employment, as well as banning political activity of any kind. Under martial law, all Arab political organisations banned.

Martial law also meant that Palestinians were subject to regular curfews and could not leave or enter their own towns without permits.  It is this apartheid permit system and oppression of Palestinians in their own land by the Zionist state which is the essence of what Darwish's poem, Identity Card, is about.

To compare Darwish's poem about resistance to settler-colonial repression and oppression to Hitler's manifesto is outrageous to say the least. However, Darwish's poems have long been viewed as dangerous by the Israeli state, precisely because they articulate not only the Palestinian narrative but also because they are part of the Palestinian people's resistance to Israel's settler-colonial oppression. Darwish's poem are a threat because they represent Palestinian sumoud (steadfastness): that despite all the horrors visited on them, the Palestinian people continue to exist and continue to struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination.

It is no wonder that Lieberman and Regev wants Darwish's poems banned from the airwaves yet again. It is not because they bear any resemblance to Hitler's manifesto but because they represent the Palestinian narrative and Palestinian continued resistance to Israel's occupation and apartheid regime.

In solidarity,

For more information on Mahmoud Darwish's life and poetry, see my tribute to him:

You can also check out other articles on Darwish from a range of mainstream media sites
here and here and here.

For more information on the apartheid nature of the Israeli state, you can read my earlier blog:


Lieberman compares Mahmoud Darwish poem to 'Mein Kampf'

July 21, 2016 Maan News

An undated photo of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared the broadcast of poetry by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish on Israeli radio to glorifying Adolf Hitler’s "Mein Kampf," the Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Israeli army radio broadcast works by the iconic Palestinian writer as part of its "University on Air" program, including Darwish’s famous poem “Identity Card,” which drew the ire of Lieberman and other Israeli officials.

In a meeting with Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel, Lieberman said that broadcasting the poem contravened the station’s mission to “strengthen solidarity in society, not to deepen rifts, and certainly not to offend public sensibilities.”

Lieberman added that Darwish’s poems could not “be part of the Israeli narrative program” aired on the station, adding: “By that same logic, we can also add to the Israeli narrative Mufti al-Husseini, or broadcast a glorification of the literary merits of ‘Mein Kampf,’” referring to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s -- whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversially blamed in October for the Holocaust.

“Identity Card,” written in 1964, details the indignities of life subjected to the bureaucracy of the Israeli occupation, and includes the lines “I do not hate people/Nor do I encroach/But if I become hungry/The usurper's flesh will be my food,” presumably the part targeted by Lieberman.

According to the Ministry of Defense statement, Lieberman said that there was “a big difference between freedom of expression and freedom of incitement.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit called Lieberman “to remind him he has no authority to intervene in Army Radio’s programming.”

On Wednesday, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev called the broadcast of Darwish’s poems “dangerous,” adding that Army Radio “cannot allow itself to glorify the anti-Israel historical tale, as Mahmoud Darwish is not an Israeli, his poems are not Israeli, and they go against the main values of Israeli society.”

Darwish, who died in 2008, is also known as Palestine's national poet, and stands as one of the most prominent figures of modern Palestinian literature. He has long been criticized by Israeli political figures for his stance against the occupation.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

When Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinians, Even a Smoking Gun Doesn't Lead to Indictments

Dear friends,
Please find below an article on the murder of Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi, who were murdered by the Israeli military in the village of Nabi Saleh in the Occupied West Bank.

Rushdi Tamimi was the brother of my good friend Nariman Tamimi and Mustafa is also a relative. 

I have written many times about the deaths of both men and about Nabi Saleh, as I have many dear friends in the village.  As I have mentioned before, while I have attended many demonstrations in the Occupied West Bank, nearly all of which were brutally repressed by the Israeli military, by far the worst repression I had seen and experienced was in Nabi Saleh. 

The Israeli military would enter the village often at dawn and stay until dusk, harassing the village, firing massive quantities of teargas, which blanketed the whole village so you couldn't breath. Teargas was and continues to be regularly fired into homes, so there is no where in the village to escape it. The Israel's occupation forces regularly used live ammunition, firing it directly at children and adults.

What this current article demonstrates, yet again, is that the Israeli soldiers can act with impunity and get away with murder, even if there is demonstrable evidence and documentation showing what they did.  As this article demonstrates, Israeli soldiers regularly lie about what they have done and the Israeli military system is set up to allow them to act with impunity.  Very few charges against Israeli soldiers are investigated and those which are very rarely find any wrong doing.

Please find links below to earlier articles, including one by Israeli activist, Jonathan Pollack who witnessed the murder of Mustafa, as well as one by Haggai Matar, who examines the photos capturing Mustafa's death.

You can read some of other posts on Nabi Saleh here:

The people of Nabi Saleh, despite these tragedies continue to fight for justice and for freedom. It is our job to stand in solidarity with them.

In solidarity, Kim

When Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinians, Even a Smoking Gun Doesn't Lead to Indictments

Photo by Haim Schwartzenberg

Mustafa Tamimi was killed when he was shot in the face with a gas canister in a 2012 protest. A year later, Rushdi Tamimi was shot in the belly with live fire. No one ever faced charges. A closer look at the two cases reveals that putting soldiers to trial is the exception, not the rule.

Chaim Levinson Jul 07, 2016 Haaretz

An in-depth study of two incidents in which Palestinian protesters were shot and killed during demonstrations in the West Bank shows that the level of evidence required to indict an Israel Defense Forces soldier is substantially higher than that demanded when Palestinians are investigated.

Furthermore, the heavy media coverage given to the prosecution of Sgt. Elor Azaria – the Israeli soldier standing trial for manslaughter after shooting a subdued Palestinian assailant in March – is extremely rare, even though his actions are not.

Of the 739 complaints filed by the Israeli nonprofit B’Tselem concerning death, injury or beatings of Palestinians since 2000, only 25 resulted in prosecutions (less than 4 percent). And these charges were usually for the smallest possible violations, such as negligent use of a weapon.

Haaretz has obtained access to the IDF’s correspondence with the human rights group (which represented the families) concerning two high-profile cases – the deaths of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi (no relation) – which were closed without any indictments being filed. The relevant documents and correspondence are classic examples of the manner in which the military advocate general conducts investigations into Palestinian fatalities.

Mustafa Tamimi’s death occurred in December 2011, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Following prayer services at the mosque, the local residents gathered in the village square, where their usual Friday ritual commenced. They attempted to march toward their farmland, which had been expropriated “for military purposes” and upon which the settlement of Neve Tzuf was established. The army deployed in order to prevent them from exiting the village. The two sides confronted each other. Initially there were songs, followed by curses, and then someone threw a stone at the soldiers. They responded with tear gas and the marchers dispersed. The stone throwers remained.

For hours, the two sides played cat and mouse, one side throwing stones, the other firing tear gas. This is the norm in the village every Friday.

However, things didn’t follow the usual script on December 9. Photos taken by Haim Schwartzenberg documented what happened at 14:26: An army jeep with soldiers from the Kfir Brigade inside was on a stone-strewn road outside the village. Two Palestinians wielding stones approached them, one with his face covered and the other wearing a gas mask. A stone was thrown and the back door of the jeep opened just a fraction. A tear-gas canister was fired from the jeep and hit the Palestinian wearing the gas mask in the head. The jeep moved away as the man fell to the ground, bleeding profusely.

The wounded man was Mustafa, a 28-year-old from the village. Soon, many of the marchers gathered around him, photographing his smashed head from all angles. He was quickly put into a Palestinian taxi, which took him to a nearby checkpoint.

“I opened the taxi door,” recounted a paramedic later, “and saw him unconscious, breathing with a rattle. The whole right side of his face under the eyes was ripped.”

Tamimi was taken to Beilinson Hospital, Petah Tikva, where doctors commended the treatment provided by the female paramedic. However, he died the next morning. A slingshot was found in his pocket.

Rushdi Tamimi’s death took place a year later, on November 17, 2012. The West Bank was seething as Operation Pillar of Defense raged in Gaza. There were incidents on the terraces lying between Nabi Saleh and the adjacent road, which links settlements in the Binyamin regional council and Israel’s center. A reserves’ military unit was summoned to protect the road.

Video footage documented soldiers running toward Rushdi Tamimi, who was lying on the ground. The soldiers surrounded him and moved those present back. He was taken to hospital with a bullet in his stomach, but died two days later. A military inquiry found that a “mistake” had occurred, contravening the army’s values.

For 90 minutes, the army had fired all the tear gas at its disposal, until it ran out. A medic was sent to get more, but in the meantime soldiers switched to using live ammunition, firing 80 bullets at demonstrators until the lethal one hit Rushdi Tamimi. In a highly exceptional move, the company commander was dismissed after the incident.

‘No way of explaining it’
The investigation of Mustafa Tamimi’s death was supposed to be a simple case, leading to a straightforward indictment. Gas canisters are defined by the IDF as nonlethal weapons. Tear gas is unpleasant, but it doesn’t kill people. Anyone not suffering from asthma or a heart condition recovers within minutes after being exposed to it.

Being hit by a canister, however, can be lethal. Army regulations specify that canisters must be fired from a distance of at least 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) and not be aimed at a person. They should be pointed upward, so that the canister lands at the feet of demonstrators, not hitting their bodies.

The soldier who fired the tear-gas canister is called Sgt. Aviram (Haaretz has his full name), who was the deputy company commander’s radio operator. At the inquiry, Aviram said the soldiers had entered the village with a bulldozer, under orders from the deputy battalion commander to clear a rock barrier on the road. When this was removed, they turned back. One of the soldiers testified that the deputy commanding officer was more aggressive than the battalion commander, who only wanted them to proceed 30 meters into the village.

Aviram and the other soldiers in the jeep testified that they were backing up and turning around in order to exit the village, with the jeep doors open. They were hit by two stones, one of which hit Aviram in the chest. He asked the driver to stop and opened fire.

But the video footage shows that the identical testimony of all the soldiers is false. The doors were closed while they were turning around, were slightly opened to allow the shooting of the canister, and then closed. No stone seemingly penetrated the jeep.
The brigade commander in the area, Col. Saar Tzur, also noted that the gunshots were unnecessary, since the task had been completed and the force was moving away.

The main question at the inquiry was whether Aviram saw Mustafa Tamimi approaching the jeep. Aviram said he didn’t see anything and that he directed his fire upward.

“I looked through the crack. The driver turned around and I asked him to stop so I could fire toward the terraces. I looked to determine that no one was close by and fired two or three canisters,” Aviram said in his testimony.

So how did the canister hit Tamimi – who was only meters away – in the face? Aviram said he had no way of explaining how this happened. When shown photos documenting the incident, he changed his version and claimed that he had fired directly, not upward.

In order to prove the scientific aspect of the issue, investigators requested two professional opinions. One came from Lt. Col. Yoav, the head of the ballistics department in the Ordnance Corps. He stated in his report: “It is impossible that the victim was hit by someone firing at a 45- to 90-degree angle. My statement is unequivocal, based on my familiarity with this weapon, the ammunition and its ballistic behavior, as well as the photos I saw of the incident, which documented the conditions in relation to distances and elevations.”

The second opinion was from Lt. Col. N., from Military Intelligence, who is an expert in deciphering aerial photographs. He also stated that indirect fire was impossible: “The angle of the rifle barrel at the time of firing was zero or even lower.”

N. attempted to reconstruct the incident on-site, but was interrupted when stones were thrown. Ultimately, his testimony was favorable to the shooter: The firing was direct, but Mustafa was approaching the jeep in a manner in which he could not be seen – in other words, the canister was not aimed at him, Mustafa moved toward it.

However, Schwartzenberg’s photos seem to show the opposite. Mustafa Tamimi was standing still when the jeep stopped, his knees bent as he prepared to throw a stone at the vehicle. He didn’t move when the door opened. He was directly across from the door facing Aviram. N. conducted some experiments to establish fields of vision, in order to find out what Aviram could see. The photos show that the opening of the jeep door was sufficiently wide so that people standing in front of it could be seen.

The file against Aviram and the others in the jeep was closed in December 2013. B’Tselem appealed in February 2015, but the military advocate general rejected their appeal a year later. The revision of a firing angle from 90 degrees to 0 degrees was defined as a “correction … it’s certainly possible that Sgt. Aviram didn’t remember the exact angle.”

As for the possibility that the deceased entered the line of fire within a fraction of a second of Aviram pulling the trigger – implying that he wasn’t observed at that point – Chief Military Prosecutor Sharon Zagagi-Pinhas wrote, “This is an uncommon likelihood, but it’s possible, giving reasonable doubt in the matter.”

‘Soldiers’ lives were in danger’
In the case of Rushdi Tamimi, the vigorous operational investigation conducted by the army fizzled out when it passed into the hands of Military Police investigators.

Shooting at stone-throwing demonstrators from this distance is contrary to the rules of engagement. “They came within meters of our forces,” company commander Yisrael testified. “I felt my soldiers’ lives were in danger. We were worried about a lynching or an abduction. I asked permission to use live fire, but received no answer from battalion headquarters. My operator was hit by two large stones and another soldier was hit in the leg from a range of five meters. I realized that if we didn’t open fire we’d be stoned and a soldier might be abducted. I and another soldier opened fire.” Other soldiers testified that they didn’t aim at anyone specifically.

In May 2014, the military advocate general decided to close the file for two reasons: First, under the circumstances, no one could disregard the risk to the soldiers’ lives. Second, in the absence of a bullet, the identity of the soldier who fired the lethal shot could not be determined.

Asked to respond to the two incidents and the army’s approach to investigating such cases, the IDF spokesman said: “The law enforcement system in the IDF operates independently, professionally and precisely. Each case is judged on its own merits, based on evidence that was gathered and according to legal criteria. This is done for cases dealing with operational activity, including these two incidents.

“The Military Police investigation of the circumstances that led to the death of Mustafa Tamimi on December 9, 2011, was thorough and comprehensive. Testimonies were collected from soldiers and civilians, and a reconstruction of the incident was conducted. Video footage and photographs documenting the shooting were collected and expert opinions obtained.

“The soldier who fired the tear-gas canister said he followed the regulations in response to extensive stone throwing, without seeing anyone in his line of fire. An expert opinion determined that Mustafa was moving toward the jeep while throwing stones, and entered the line of fire without the shooter being able to see him. The evidence suggests that the firing followed guidelines and regulations, and the file was closed without taking any action against the soldier.

“The evidence collected in the investigation of the circumstances leading to the death by gunshot of Rushdi Tamimi on November 19, 2012, shows he was taking part in a particularly violent demonstration, which included extensive throwing of rocks from a short range at soldiers and civilians. The soldiers fired into the air and took further action following procedures for the arrest of a suspect, firing at the legs of a demonstrator who was trying to hurl a large rock at one of them. The soldiers didn’t see [Rushdi Tamimi] or others getting hit, and when trying to administer medical aid they didn’t see a bullet wound. There was no way of obtaining the bullet that was extricated from his body, or an explanation of the medical complication that led to his death.

“Examining the evidence showed that, in light of the operational circumstances on the ground, the soldiers dispersing the demonstration did not act in a way that warrants taking legal action against them. There were some professional flaws in the actions of the commanding officer, but these were unrelated to Tamimi’s death. The officer was disciplined after the incident.”

Sunday, July 3, 2016

At the Qalandia Checkpoint: The Occupation’s Humiliation Machine

Dear friends,
please find below an excerpt from Ben Ehrenreich's new book about the struggle of the people of the village of Nabi Saleh in the Occupied West Bank. Ehrenreich is an award winning journalist who has written about Palestine many times. His book looks at both the struggle in Nabi Saleh, as well as the overall struggle for freedom and self-determination in Palestine. 

In this excerpt Ehrenreich explains clearly the purpose of Israel's checkpoints.  In particular he looks at Qalandia checkpoint, the major checkpoint between Occupied Jerusalem and the Occupied West Bank. 

In this excerpt, Ehrenreich discusses the cages that are installed at Qalandia and other checkpoints. I was in Palestine when they were first installed, so experienced the checkpoint both before them and after their installation. I recall being both viserally angry and sick to my stomach, when I first saw them and then traversed them.  Their installation had nothing to do with "security", instead their primary purpose as Ehrenreich notes is to humiliate.  

In 2007, I wrote the following blog "The Convenience of Occupation" about the construction of the super terminal at Qalandia checkpoint. You can read it hereAt the time the super terminal was very new and it would be several years before the cages would be installed.

in solidarity, Kim


At the Qalandia Checkpoint: The Occupation’s Humiliation Machine

From Ben Ehrenreich's The Way to Spring

Originally posted @ The Literary Hub: 29 June 2016


The first time I crossed Qalandia by foot was in the spring of 2011. I was staying with a friend from Jayyous. The wall had wrecked the economy there. Among other things. There was no work, and the horizon had been literally cemented off. He and his brothers moved to Ramallah, where they shared an apartment not far from the al’Amari refugee camp. I slept in their dining room on a narrow bed pressed up against the wall.

One morning, a few minutes before my alarm was set to ring, I woke to a door squeaking open. Two bare legs shuffled past me toward the bathroom. I heard water running, the toilet flushing. When the bathroom door opened, a light-haired woman in her twenties walked by and disappeared into one of the brothers’ bedrooms. I got up, pulled on a pair of pants, and lit the stove to boil water for coffee. The woman emerged from the bedroom. I mumbled a good morning. She nodded, miserably, and made a small show of pulling her key to the apartment from her pocket and placing it on the coffee table.

“The key,” she said. Then she opened the apartment door, and left.

I hadn’t seen her before and if I ever met her since that day—which I likely did, because Ramallah is an overgrown village—I didn’t recognize her, so I never learned what happened. It was clear enough from her 
eyes, though, and from the tense slump of her shoulders, that I had been the unwanted witness to a breakup, and the beginning of a very bad morning. I choked down a cup of coffee, grabbed my bag, checked my pockets for my wallet and passport, and locked the door behind me.

I had an appointment in Bethlehem, which meant that I had choices. I 
could flag a taxi to the center of Ramallah and take another shared taxi 
from the bus station there straight to Bethlehem. Or not straight exactly—Jerusalem lay between the two cities, which meant that long, wide loop 
through the Container checkpoint and Wadi Naar. Which meant it might 
actually be faster to hop a taxi to Qalandia, cross the checkpoint on foot, 
and take a bus from the Jerusalem side to the main depot on the Nablus 
Road in East Jerusalem, where I could catch another bus to Bethlehem. 
Such conveniences, of course, were not available to everyone.

So it was that I ended up weaving my way between the cars idling as 
they waited and inched and inched and waited in the shadow of the wall. 
Maybe it’s the stonecutters’ yard a few hundred meters away, or the exhaust 
from all the idling cars and trucks and buses, or the black powder left by 
burning tires, but I do not believe there is any spot in Palestine dustier than Qalandia. Until 2000, there was no checkpoint there at all, just a road like 
any other leading from one city to another. That year, the monster was 
born. It began as a humble mound of dirt where Israeli soldiers occasionally 
stopped cars to check their drivers’ papers. In 2001, concrete barricades 
appeared. In 2003, the watchtower. Two years later, the Israelis razed a hill 
and built the wall. Tollboothlike structures went up, and a vast and well-named “terminal” sheltering a warren of caged passageways, turnstiles, and 
inspection booths behind bulletproof glass. It kept growing, mutating, the 
barriers moving, the routes and rules shifting week by week and sometimes day by day. Uncertainty was part of the point, the constant reinforcement of “the radical contingency at the heart of daily life,” to borrow a phrase from the scholar Nasser Abourahme. Despite its ever-shifting face, the checkpoint would come to feel like a permanent feature of the landscape.

Technically, Qalandia fell within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but when the wall was built, it became a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank. It developed its own ecosystem, as borders do. You could buy cigarettes without leaving your car, or SpongeBob bedspreads, or plastic jugs of purple pickled eggplant. Men sold coffee and kebabs from carts. Women sold produce or stood begging with their infants in their arms. Kids hawked chewing gum and Kleenex and pirated CDs to the waiting cars, or smeared their windshields clean with dirty rags. Outside, Qalandia was its own market, its own world.

Inside it belonged to Israel. That morning, I walked past the concrete blast walls and through the parking lot into the terminal. I stood beneath its high, corrugated metal roof and tried to guess which of the half dozen or so lines was moving fastest. I chose the shortest one and stood, inching forward into a sort of oblong cage about twenty feet long and just wide enough for a slender adult to stand without touching the steel bars on each side. There were people packed in ahead of me, and people squeezed in behind. We waited, wedged together and barely moving. This was new to me then, but it was part of everyone else’s routine. Most were going to work. Crossing Qalandia was one stage of their commute. I’m not sure how long it took before we reached the turnstile at the end of the cage—not long enough for claustrophobic panic to set in, but long enough that I could sense it hovering nearby, a palpable presence a few inches above and behind my skull.

After the turnstile came another turnstile. We were being sorted. Some of the turnstiles were more than six feet tall and barred from top to bottom, a sort of revolving door-cum-cage. Some were the waist-high kind you pass through in subways or public libraries. Except that military engineers had these ones custom-built for checkpoints, specially fitted with arms more than 25 percent shorter than the ones used in Israel. The pretext, as always, was security, so that no one could sneak by with bulky explo
sives. But the turnstiles served another function as well, a more important 
one, and it was standing between them in that dank, longitudinal cell—pressed against the people in front of and behind me, smelling the smoke of 
their cigarettes and the anxiety and irritation in their sweat and their 
breath—that I understood for the first time that in its daily functioning, the 
prime purpose of the occupation was not to take land or push people from 
their homes. It did that too of course, and effectively, but overall, with its 
checkpoints and its walls and its prisons and its permits, it functioned as a 
giant humiliation machine, a complex and sophisticated mechanism for the 
production of human despair.

That was the battle. The land mattered to everyone, but despite all the 
nationalist anthems and slogans, the harder fight was the struggle to simply stand and not be broken. It was no accident that clashes tended to occur 
at checkpoints, and it wasn’t just at the soldiers manning them that people 
threw stones. It was at the entire, cruel machine that the soldiers both 
guarded and stood in for, and its grinding insistence that they accept their 
defeat.[1] They knew—even the kids knew—that they couldn’t break it or 
even dent it and they usually couldn’t even hit it, but by fighting, by dancing and dodging fast enough and with sufficient wit and furor, they could 
avoid being caught in its gears. For a while they could, or they could try to.

After the second turnstile, we entered a slightly wider enclosure. The 
walls in front of us and behind us were barred. The ones to the sides were 
a dingy white scuffed black by the soles of thousands of shoes. Above us 
hung a long fluorescent bulb, furred with dust, and a surveillance camera 
splashed with coffee grounds. The floor was littered with cigarette butts 
and empty bags of chips. There were twenty or thirty of us in there, crowded together, shoulders and elbows touching. We weren’t advancing so much as being pushed forward by those behind us.[2] A baby was crying. Every few minutes a soldier, invisible behind a bulletproof panel in the next room, pressed a button and a buzzer sounded, a lock clicked, and three people were allowed to pass through the turnstile at the far end of the enclosure.

So it went. Each group of three that filed into the inspection room was replaced by another three. Usually, someone got stuck between the bars of the turnstile just as it locked again. This time, the person caught inside it was the woman I had seen leaving the apartment earlier that morning. Her eyes were somewhere on the other side of patience, so exhausted by rage that she looked almost calm. She didn’t see me. I didn’t shout hello. I doubted that she would welcome any reminder of her morning, which was only getting shittier. Finally the buzzer freed her. She pushed out of the cage into the next enclosure. Inside it was an X-ray machine and a metal detector like the ones at airports, only far grimier, and an inch-thick pane of Plexiglas in one wall, behind which a soldier sat in front of a computer screen.

The woman placed her purse on the conveyor belt, removed her earrings and her belt, and stepped through the metal detector. A voice barked out in distorted Hebrew through the intercom. She kicked off her shoes and tried passing through again. The machine went off again. She stood in front of the window, making an obvious effort to contain her anger, spreading her arms and opening her hands to show that she was not carrying or wearing anything made of metal. The loudspeaker issued another staticky command, and she stepped back through the metal detector. This time the machine stayed silent. She collected her shoes, her earrings, her belt and purse, and pressed her ID against the glass. The soldier stared at it and, 
after a minute’s inspection, waved her through. She wasn’t done. She had 
to wait to be buzzed through the final turnstile. Only when the two people 
behind her had gone through the same routine and also been cleared did 
the exit finally unlock. She pushed through it without a glance back, shoving her hair from her face.
[1] “What checkpoints reinforce,” the scholar Helga Tawil-Souri writes, “is Palestinians’ loss of orderly space-time, of the missing foundation of their existence, the lost ground of their origin, the broken link with their land and with their past.”

[2] I didn’t know it then and couldn’t appreciate the irony, but Qalandia was once primarily associated with flight. It was the site of Palestine’s first airfield, and its only one until what is now Ben Gurion Airport opened sixteen years later in what was still a small Palestinian town called Lydda, which would become the scene of one of the most notorious massacres of the 1948 war.
From THE WAY TO THE SPRING by Ben Ehrenreich.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Dawayima massacre and Israel's 1948 War Crimes

Dear friends,
this article from earlier this year (March 2016) discusses Israel's war crimes during the Nakba. In particular it discussed the massacre carried out by Zionist forces in Al-Dawayima in Hebron, as well as others that took place.
In solidarity, Kim

A poem published by Natan Alterman during Israel's War of Independence criticizing human-rights abuses was lauded by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who even distributed 100,000 copies of it among soldiers; other such testimonies were made to disappear.

Yair Auron Mar 18, 2016 / Haaretz

On November 19, 1948, Natan Alterman, whose influential “Seventh Column” – an op-ed in poetry form – appeared every Friday in the daily Davar, the mouthpiece of Israel’s ruling Mapai party (forerunner of Labor), published a poem titled “About This.” Excerpts:

Across the vanquished city in a jeep he did speed –
A lad bold and armed, a young lion of a lad!
And an old man and a woman on that very street
Cowered against a wall, in fear of him clad.
Said the lad smiling, milk teeth shining:
“I’ll try the machine gun”… and put it into play!
To hide his face in his hands the old man barely had time
When his blood on the wall was sprayed.
We shall sing, then, about “delicate incidents”
Whose name, don’t you know, is murder.
Sing of conversations with sympathetic listeners,
Of snickers of forgiveness that are slurred.
For those in combat gear, and we who impinge,
Whether by action or agreement subliminal,
Are thrust, muttering “necessity” and “revenge,”
Into the realm of the war criminal.
(translation by Ralph Mandel)

 Extremely moved by the verses, David Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the Provisional State Council in the nascent Jewish state, wrote Alterman: “Congratulations on the moral validity and the powerful expressiveness of your latest column in Davar… You are a pure and faithful mouthpiece of the human conscience, which, if it does not act and beat in our hearts in times like these, will render us unworthy of the great wonders vouchsafed to us until now.

“I ask your permission to have 100,000 copies of the article – which no armored column in our army exceeds in combat strength – printed by the Defense Ministry for distribution to every army person in Israel.”

What were the war crimes referred to in the poem?

Natan Alterman.Moshe Milner / GP
The massacres perpetrated by Israeli forces in Lydda (Lod) and in the village of Al-Dawayima, west of Hebron, were among the worst mass killings of the entire War of Independence. In an interview in Haaretz in 2004, historian Benny Morris (author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) declared that the most egregious massacres “occurred at Saliha, in Upper Galilee (70-80 victims), Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem (100-110), Lod (50), Dawamiya (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70).”

Lod was conquered in Operation Dani (July 9-19, 1948), which also targeted nearby Ramle. The political and military leadership viewed the capture of those two towns as crucial, because the concentration of Arab forces there threatened Tel Aviv and its surroundings. Specifically, the aim was for the fledgling Israel Defense Forces to clear the roads and allow access to the Jewish communities on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road – which remained under Arab control – and to take control of the hilly areas stretching from Latrun to the outskirts of Ramallah. This would mean a clash with units of Jordan’s Arab Legion, which were deployed – or supposedly deployed – in the area.  

Another goal of Operation Dani, which was led by Yigal Allon with Yitzhak Rabin as his deputy, was to expand the territories of the young Jewish state beyond the boundaries delineated by the UN partition plan.

On July 10, Lod was bombed by the Israeli air force, the first such attack in the War of Independence. A large ground force had also been assembled, including three brigades and 30 artillery batteries, based on the army’s assessment that large Jordanian forces were in the area.
To their surprise, the IDF units encountered little or no resistance. Even so, there are Palestinian and other Arab sources that allege that 250 people were massacred after Lod was taken. Claims about the scale of the massacre gain credence from Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who maintains that the army killed 426 men, women and children in a local mosque and the surrounding streets.

According to him, 176 bodies were found in the mosque, and the rest outside. Testimony of a Palestinian from Lod lends support to these estimates: “The [Israeli troops], violating all the conventions, shelled the mosque, killing everyone who was inside. I heard from friends who helped remove the dead from the mosque that they carried out 93 bodies; others said there were many more than a hundred.” Clearly, though, there are no agreed-upon, precise figures, and the estimates from both sides are tendentious.
Israeli troops went from house to house, expelling the remaining inhabitants to the West Bank. In some cases, soldiers looted abandoned houses and stole from the refugees.

Ben-Gurion’s intentions with respect to Lod remain a subject of debate. Years later, Rabin related how in a meeting with him and Allon, Ben-Gurion, when asked what to do with the residents of Ramle and Lod, gestured with his hand and said, “Expel them.” This version of events was to have been included in Rabin’s memoirs but was banned for publication in Israel, in 1979. His account did appear in The New York Times at the time, and caused a furor. Allon, who also took part in the meeting with Ben-Gurion, vehemently denied Rabin’s account.On July 12, an order was issued by the Yiftah Brigade “to remove the residents from Lod speedily … They are to be directed to Beit Naballah [near Ramle].” .

‘Only a few shots’

With regard to Dawayima, some facts are clear. On October 29, 1948, during Operation Yoav (aka Operation Ten Plagues) in the south, the 89th Battalion, a commando unit, conquered the village. By then, more than three months after the Lod massacre, it was obvious that Israel was winning the war. Now, the goal was to add more territory, to empty the country of Arabs wherever possible and to enter armistice talks under convenient conditions. Extensive areas in the north, and perhaps even more in the south, were seized almost without a battle. The IDF swept through one village after another.

A case in point was Dawayima, population about 4,000, situated on the western slopes of the South Hebron Hills in the Negev (today’s Moshav Amatzia). Many of the villagers, including old people, women and children, were murdered by the Israeli forces. The village offered no resistance – even those who have sought an explanation, or possible justification, for the crime acknowledge that the IDF encountered only light opposition and that the halftracks were subjected to “only a few shots, fired from four rifles,” according to Avraham Vered, one of the commanders of the operation.

Remains of the Palestinian village of Al-Dawayima. Photo: Zafrir Rinat

In his diary entry of November 10, Ben-Gurion quoted Maj. Gen. Elimelech Avner, commander of the military government in the area, as saying that “according to rumor, 70-80 people were ‘slaughtered’ [quotation marks in original] at Dawayima.” The perpetrators were “Yitzhak’s battalion,” referring to the 89th Battalion of the 8th Brigade, under the command of the legendary Yitzhak Sadeh, founder of the pre-state Palmach strike force. The news apparently shocked the top brass, including Sadeh himself and also Allon, who was in charge of the southern front. Several inquiries ensued. An investigation by Isser Be’eri, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, was never completed and effectively ended in the wake of the general amnesty granted in February 1949 to persons liable to be charged with committing crimes during the war.

Some officers testified that those executed were residents of Dawamiya who were found to be in possession of documents or objects looted during the massacre perpetrated against Jews in the Etzion bloc outside Jerusalem in May 1948. One IDF commander wrote, “We remembered 1929 [the massacre by Arabs of the Jewish community in Hebron] and the Etzion Bloc ... the blood of the slaughtered cries out for revenge.”

Similarly, in an order issued on October 15, during Operation Yoav, Allon stated, “Tonight the brigade will take its revenge. Tonight all the nights of agony of the alliance of the besieged will be revenged.” What underlay the desire for revenge is not clear – probably the difficulty and cruelty of the battles against the Egyptian army in the early part of the war, which resulted in heavy losses on both sides.

Embarrassment apparently ensued from the fact that the Dawayima massacre took place under the command of Sadeh, who was known for his moral sensitivity and insistence on “purity of arms” – i.e., the use of weapons solely for the execution of a mission, without harming noncombatants. Some left-wing sources maintained that the perpetrators of the mass killing in the village were members of the former ultranationalist underground organization Lehi (led originally by Avraham Stern and afterward by Yitzhak Shamir), which had been coopted to the 89th Battalion, much to Yitzhak Sadeh’s pride. But it is patently untrue that the massacre was carried out by former Lehi personnel. The massacres at Ein Zeitun, as well, near Safed, in early May 1948, and at Lod – and others, too – were perpetrated by Palmach units, by the finest of the fledgling state’s young generation.

‘Court poet’
The Dawayima massacre was discussed in at least two cabinet meetings. For his part, on November 19, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion asked the attorney general, Yaakov-Shimshon Shapira, later appointed justice minister, to investigate the event. This was the day Alterman published “About This.” Shapira’s report remains classified to this day – by dint of a decision by a special ministerial committee, and subsequently affirmed by the High Court of Justice. The details of Be'eri's investigation are also still classified.

It has generally been assumed that Alterman’s poem refers to the events at Lod, which had occurred more than four months before it was published. However, jurist Menachem Finkelstein, in his book “The Seventh Column and Purity of Arms” (2011; Hebrew), argues that the column was written about the Dawayima massacre, which took place three weeks before its publication. According to Finkelstein, Alterman heard about the mass killings from his good friend Sadeh and knew a great deal more than what he recounts in the poem, but did not want to embarrass Sadeh or run the risk of intervention by the military censors.

Still, not everyone interprets the column in Davar as an unequivocal condemnation of the massacre. Poet and essayist Yitzhak Laor, who considers Alterman a “court poet,” has speculated that the column may even have been commissioned, and that “it was written with a didactic purpose.” In the view of literary scholar Hannan Hever, Alterman’s poem reflects a Jewish, Zionist voice that condemns the brutal event but does not dare blame the political leadership or Ben-Gurion specifically, the poet’s friend, who spearheaded the policy of occupation and expulsion.

In a 1996 book, “The Southern Front, from Sinai to Hebron” (in Hebrew), the former commander Avraham Vered mocks Alterman, who had been a soldier in the 8th Brigade but, Vered suggests, was relieved of combat duty because the war adversely affected his muse.
“Maybe the stories that were floating around about the conquest of Dawayima reached Alterman in the brigade’s tents,” writes Vered, and, “shocked by the exaggerations overlaid on the stories, he found that the time was appropriate to publish a diatribe against the Palmach in connection with Operation Dani in Lod.”

Natan Alterman in the Haaretz editorial offices, 1930s. Haaretz archive

The poem was widely quoted and also drew high praise. Haaretz, reprinting it in full, wrote, “Alterman’s cry of alarm touches on the very essence of the war and its methods.” The philosopher Samuel Hugo Bergman, a member of Brit Shalom, the Jewish-Palestinian Peace Alliance, termed the distribution of copies of the column to soldiers “an extremely important event.”

Mentioning also S. Yizhar’s short story “The Prisoner,” about the shooting, in cold blood, by Israeli troops of a Palestinian prisoner, published in November 1948, while the war still raged, Bergman noted, “The fact that such works can appear in our country in wartime is wonderful testimony to the freedom of spirit that prevails here.” (Yizhar’s short novel “Hirbet Hizeh” dealt with a similar theme.”)

The first meeting of the Provisional State Council (which had legislative and executive authorities until a formal government was established) after the Lod massacre was held on July 14, 1948. Sixty-eight years later, large swaths of its minutes are still classified. In the unclassified section, Ben-Gurion relates that in some places conquered by IDF forces, such as the airport at Lod (as distinct from the city), “almost unbelievable things were done, things that on Thursday [July 8] were still in the realm of thought. An incredible reality was created.” He basks in the successes: “I learned something else – that war is not only wasteful. We acquired something that Israel would not have built in the coming 10 years: the airport at Lod [today Ben-Gurion International Airport] … That airport is worth millions.”

One of the most powerful condemnations of the events at Lod and Dawamiya came from the agriculture minister, Aharon Zisling. The language used on November 17 by the kibbutz member and representative of the left-wing Mapam party, is among the most damning ever heard in an Israeli cabinet meeting. Zisling told those present that after he received information about the events, he had not been able to sleep all night.

“I felt that the things that were going on were wounding my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here,” he said. “I could not imagine where we came from and where we were going.” Noting that he had sometimes disagreed when British occupiers in Palestine were called “Nazis” – even though, he averred, the “British did commit Nazi crimes” – Zisling added: “But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken. We have to conceal these actions from the public, and I agree that we should not even reveal that we are investigating them, but they must be investigated.”

That text appears in Tom Segev’s book, “1949: The First Israelis” (English translation: Arlen N. Weinstein). Segev and Morris (in “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited”) cite a precise source in the archives of the Kibbutz Hameuchad movement. However, I was unable to find the document there. Nor is it likely that the meeting in question ended with Zisling’s remarks. Other ministers certainly spoke, but their comments are classified.

There is no doubt in my mind that Zisling was referring to the Dawayima massacre. His information probably came from a letter sent by a soldier named S. Kaplan to Eliezer Peri, editor of Al Hamishmar, the Mapam newspaper, on November 8, about the Dawayima atrocity.

In fact, another soldier, who was an eyewitness to the event related his experiences to his friend Kaplan, a fellow Mapamnik, who passed it on to Peri, who was also a member of the party’s political committee. In many respects, this letter, apparently written in real time, is of immense importance and significance. It remains relevant and germane today, and is published here in full for the first time. It was found in the archive, typewritten, with several minor corrections and handwritten proofreading, and reads as follows:

Dear Comrade Eliezer Peri,
I read today’s editorial in Al Hamishmar about procedure in our army, which conquers everything except its base instincts.
Eyewitness testimony given to me by a soldier who was in Dawayima on the day after its capture. The soldier is one of ours, an intellectual, 100-percent reliable. He told me what was in his heart because of a psychological need to unburden his soul of the horrific awareness that our cultured and educated people are capable of achieving this level of barbarism. He told me what was in his heart, because not many hearts today are capable of listening. 

There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors [to enter the village] killed from 80 to 100 [male] Arabs, women and children. They killed the children by smashing their skulls with sticks. There was not a home without its dead. The second wave of the army was a company to which the testifying soldier belonged.

Arab men and women who remained in the village were shut into houses without food or water. Then came sappers to blow up houses. One commander ordered a sapper to put two old Arab women into the particular house that was going to be blow up with them inside. The sapper refused, saying he took orders only from his commander. So the commander ordered his soldiers to shut the women in, and the horror was perpetrated.

One soldier boasted that he had raped an Arab woman and then shot her. Another Arab woman who was carrying a newborn baby was made to clean the courtyard, where the soldiers eat. She did that service for a day or two, and in the end she and her baby were shot. The soldier relates that their cultured, polite commanders, who are considered upstanding members of society, turned into base murderers, and not in the heat and passion of battle but in a system of expulsion and destruction.

The fewer Arabs that will remain, the better. That principle is the political driving force of the expulsions and atrocities, to which no one objects, either in the operational command or in high command. I myself was at the front for two weeks and heard tales of boasting by soldiers and commanders of how they excelled at hunting and “screwing.” To screw an Arab, just like that and under all circumstances, is an honorable mission and there’s competition for winning at this.

We are in a bind. To issue an outcry in the press is to assist the Arab League, as our representative rejects their complaints out of hand. Not to react is [to show] solidarity with baseness of spirit. The soldier told me that Deir Yassin is not the peak of the wildness. Can we shout about Deir Yassin and remain silent about far worse?

We must raise a scandal in the internal channels, demand an internal investigation and punish the guilty. And first of all the army needs to establish a special unit to restrain the army. I myself accuse the government above all – it has no interest in combating these phenomena and is perhaps also indirectly encouraging them. Inaction is in itself encouragement. My commanding officer said that there is an unwritten order not to take prisoners, and each soldier and commander interprets “prisoners” for himself.

A prisoner can be an Arab man, an Arab woman or an Arab child. Only in display windows such as Majdal [Ashkelon] and Nazareth is it not done.

I am writing you this so that the newspaper and the party will know the truth and take effective action. At the very least do not get swept up by false diplomacy that covers blood and murder. The newspaper, too, as far as possible should not remain silent.

[signed] Kaplan

 The original of this letter, which was stored in the Aharon Zisling’s personal archive, has disappeared. A copy was graciously provided to me by Benny Morris. Zisling’s archive is now part of the Yad Tabenkin Archive (formerly the Kibbutz Hameuchad Archive). From that “private archive,” as it is designated, not only minutes of cabinet meetings from decades ago were removed, but also personal letters.

Addendum: Since the original publication of this piece, last month, in Hebrew, I have learned definitively that “S. Kaplan” was the later Shabtai Kaplan, who went on to serve for many years as the correspondent of the Mapam newspaper Al-Hamishmar in the south.

Prof. Yair Auron is a scholar of genocide studies and genocide education. He is a member of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Shalom, Israel’s only Jewish-Arab village.