Saturday, March 1, 2008

Postscript: A series of quotes

Living with the Holocaust by Sara Roy:
Within the Jewish community it has always been considered a form of heresy to compare Israeli actions or policies with those of the Nazis, and certainly one must be very careful in doing so. But what does it mean when Israeli soldiers paint identification numbers on Palestinian arms; when young Palestinian men and boys of a certain age are told through Israeli loudspeakers to gather in the town square; when Israeli soldiers openly admit to shooting Palestinian children for sport; when some of the Palestinian dead must be buried in mass graves while the bodies of others are left in city streets and camp alleyways because the army will not allow proper burial; when certain Israeli officials and Jewish intellectuals publicly call for the destruction of Palestinian villages in retaliation for suicide bombings or for the transfer of the Palestinian population out of the West Bank and Gaza; when 46 percent of the Israeli public favors such transfers and when transfer or expulsion becomes a legitimate part of popular discourse; when government officials speak of the "cleansing of the refugee camps"; and when a leading Israeli intellectual calls for hermetic separation between Israelis and Palestinians in the form of a Berlin Wall, caring not whether the Palestinians on the other side of the wall may starve to death as a result.
J.A.G., the Jerusalem Post & Kalandia

Members of a group called Jews Against Genocide (JAG) claimed responsibility for defacing the newly erected sign to the Kalandiya terminal checkpoint north of Jerusalem, daubing on it the infamous Auschwitz inscription “Arbeit macht frei” (Work liberates).

Shlomo Bloom, one of the founding members of the organization, said the action was not to say that Kalandiya is equivalent to Auschwitz but to accentuate the frightening similarities between the two. “Kalandiya is not a cheerful place for Palestinians,” he told The Jerusalem Post . “There are disturbing parallels between the tactics used by the occupying forces and those of the Nazis,” he said. The sign, decorated with a painted flower and inscribed in Arabic, English and Hebrew with the slogan “The hope of us all,” is one of many being erected at checkpoints, security officials said.

But Bloom views the move as a degrading and humiliating message for the Palestinians. “If we were talking about a sovereign Palestinian state with a border checkpoint between it and Israel, it would be a different matter,” said Bloom.

swearing substituting for a rational argument:

That Israel's American supporters so often resort to angry outbursts rather than principled arguments -- and seem to find emotional blackmail more effective than genuine debate -- is ultimately a sign of their weakness rather than their strength. For all the damage it can do in the short term, in the long run such a position is untenable, too dependent on emotion and cliché rather than hard facts. The phenomenal success of Carter's book suggests that more and more Americans are learning to ignore the scare tactics that are the only tools available to Israel's supporters.

Saree Makdisi, professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA and a frequent commentator on the Middle East.

Norman Finkelstein sez:
Yet, it is an incontestable fact that Israel has committed a broad range of human rights violations, many rising to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These include:

Illegal Killings. Whereas Palestinian suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians have garnered much media attention, Israel's quantitatively worse record of killing non-combatants is less well known. According to the most recent figures of the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B'Tselem), 3,386 Palestinians have been killed since September 2000, of whom 1,008 were identified as combatants, as opposed to 992 Israelis killed, of whom 309 were combatants. This means that three times more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed and up to three times more Palestinian civilians than Israeli civilians. Israel's defenders maintain that there's a difference between targeting civilians and inadvertently killing them. B'Tselem disputes this: "[W]hen so many civilians have been killed and wounded, the lack of intent makes no difference. Israel remains responsible." Furthermore, Amnesty International reports that "many" Palestinians have not been accidentally killed but "deliberately targeted," while the award-winning New York Times journalist Chris Hedges reports that Israeli soldiers "entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport."

Torture. "From 1967," Amnesty reports, "the Israeli security services have routinely tortured Palestinian political suspects in the Occupied Territories." B'Tselem found that eighty-five percent of Palestinians interrogated by Israeli security services were subjected to "methods constituting torture," while already a decade ago Human Rights Watch estimated that "the number of Palestinians tortured or severely ill-treated" was "in the tens of thousands - a number that becomes especially significant when it is remembered that the universe of adult and adolescent male Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is under three-quarters of one million." In 1987 Israel became "the only country in the world to have effectively legalized torture" (Amnesty). Although the Israeli Supreme Court seemed to ban torture in a 1999 decision, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel reported in 2003 that Israeli security forces continued to apply torture in a "methodical and routine" fashion. A 2001 B'Tselem study documented that Israeli security forces often applied "severe torture" to "Palestinian minors."

House demolitions. "Israel has implemented a policy of mass demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories," B'Tselem reports, and since September 2000 "has destroyed some 4,170 Palestinian homes." Until just recently Israel routinely resorted to house demolitions as a form of collective punishment. According to Middle East Watch, apart from Israel, the only other country in the world that used such a draconian punishment was Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In addition, Israel has demolished thousands of "illegal" homes that Palestinians built because of Israel's refusal to provide building permits. The motive behind destroying these homes, according to Amnesty, has been to maximize the area available for Jewish settlers: "Palestinians are targeted for no other reason than they are Palestinians." Finally, Israel has destroyed hundred of homes on security pretexts, yet a Human Rights Watch report on Gaza found that "the pattern of destruction…strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat." Amnesty likewise found that "Israel's extensive destruction of homes and properties throughout the West Bank and Gaza…is not justified by military necessity," and that "Some of these acts of destruction amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are war crimes."

Apart from the sheer magnitude of its human rights violations, the uniqueness of Israeli policies merits notice. "Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality," B'Tselem has concluded. "This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa." If singling out South Africa for an international economic boycott was defensible, it would seem equally defensible to single out Israel's occupation, which uniquely resembles the apartheid regime.
From the newspaper Haaretz:
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai went as far as threatening a "shoah,"
the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster. The word is generally used to refer to the Nazi Holocaust, but a spokesman for Vilnai said the deputy defense minister used the word in the sense of "disaster," saying "he did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide."

"The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Vilnai told Army Radio on Friday.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai's comments: "We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people."
From a photography website:

Christopher Anderson PALESTINE. 2007. Palestinian day workers crowd into the corral that leads to the checkpoint to Jerusalem. [The] line starts at around 4:45 am every day as the ordeal can often take around 2 hours.
Israel army forces violin recital:
A Palestinian man queuing to pass an Israeli checkpoint was forced by soldiers to perform an impromptu violin recital, a human rights group says.

The group's footage of the incident shows the man playing to an audience of border guards and waiting Palestinians.

[snip]

Film footage of the checkpoint violin recital was shot on 9 November by Horit Herman Peled, a volunteer with women's human rights group, Machsom Watch, which monitors the conduct of Israeli troops.

Ms Herman Peled told the Associated Press news agency the Palestinian man complied with the soldiers' demand to play his instrument because "he just wanted to get through the roadblock".

Some of the soldiers were laughing during the performance, which lasted for about two minutes, she said.

Her footage shows a soldier checking the man's documents as he plays the violin, while a queue of Palestinians waits behind him.
Of course the aforementioned violin recital got a few Israelis to ask what the neighbors might think:
Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.

The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.

Nor was it as nauseating as the pictures in an Israeli newspaper of ultra-orthodox soldiers mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man's head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.

But the matter of the violin touched on something deeper about the way Israelis see themselves, and their conflict with the Palestinians.

The violinist, Wissam Tayem, was on his way to a music lesson near Nablus when he said an Israeli officer ordered him to "play something sad" while soldiers made fun of him. After several minutes, he was told he could pass.

It may be that the soldiers wanted Mr Tayem to prove he was indeed a musician walking to a lesson because, as a man under 30, he would not normally have been permitted through the checkpoint.

But after the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs.

The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. "What about Majdanek?" he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.

The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of Mr Tayem.

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust".

"Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote.

"If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps."

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