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Uri Avnery on Jericho--3/18/06

As usual, the best commentary on this event comes from my favorite
Israeli analyst, Uri Avnery. It takes an Israeli to really understand
Israel. And to explain it.

Uri Avnery
18.3.06

          A Disgusting Exercise

THE CENTRAL theme of this article is disgust. Therefore I apologize in
advance for the frequent use of this and similar words.

In the thesaurus I find quite a number of synonyms: loathing, revulsion,
dislike, nausea, distaste, aversion, antipathy, abomination, repulsion,
abhorrence, repugnance, odium, detestation, and some more. They are all
present in my feelings about the action that took place in Jericho on
Tuesday.


IT WAS abhorrent, first of all, because it was an election propaganda
gimmick. For a politician to send the army in to collect votes is an
abhorrent act. In this action, three people were killed. Many more
lives, Palestinian and Israeli, were put at risk.

The horrible cynicism of the decision was plain for all to see. Even the
voters noticed it: in a public opinion poll two days later, 47% said
that the decision was influenced by electoral considerations, only 49%
thought otherwise.

This is not the first time for Ehud Olmert to walk over dead bodies on
his way to power. As mayor of Jerusalem, he pushed for the opening of a
tunnel in the area of the Muslim shrines, causing (as expected) dozens
of casualties. Binyamin Netanyahu, his accomplice at the time, is made
of similar material.

Netanyahu, at least, was once a combat soldier, who risked his own life
in action. Much more distasteful is a politician who sends others to
risk their lives but takes great care not to risk his own. This
inglorious band also numbers George Bush and Dick Cheney, two serial
war-mongers.

Olmert had a problem. His party was slowly sinking in the polls. As time
passed, some of the Kadima fans started to notice that Olmert, after
all, is no Sharon. Sharon's glory derives mainly from his being a
victorious general, who walked around during the Yom Kippur war with a
large bandage around his head (to this very day it is not quite clear
what purpose it served). Olmert was in urgent need of a military action
that would provide him with the laurels of a tough military commander,
and would also help him shake off the nickname attached to him by the
Likud: Smolmert. (Smol, in Hebrew, means left.)

The trick paid off. In the same poll, 20.7% of the voters said that the
Jericho action persuaded them to vote for Kadima, or, at least,
reinforced their decision to do so.

In general, one should beware of a civilian politician who succeeds a
leader crowned with military laurels. It is enough to mention the
classic case of Anthony Eden, the heir of Winston Churchill, who
initiated the Suez war of October 1956.


WHAT DOES that war remind us about? The collusion.

The British wanted to topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, because he had the
temerity to expropriate the property of the British shareholders of the
Suez Canal Company. The French wanted to bring him down because of his
support for the Algerian war of liberation. They conspired with David
Ben-Gurion, who wanted to destroy the newly re-equipped Egyptian army.
The main middleman of the collusion was Shimon Peres, now No. 2 on the
Kadima list.

It worked like this: Israeli paratroopers, commanded by Ariel Sharon
(founder of Kadima), were dropped near the Suez canal. Britain and
France issued a fake ultimatum, calling upon Egypt and Israel to
withdraw their forces from the canal - a preposterous demand, since the
canal is deep in Egyptian territory. As agreed beforehand, Israel
refused, and then the British and French forces invaded the canal area,
leaving the Israeli army to take control of the entire Sinai peninsula.
The collusion was so primitive and obvious that it was uncovered at
once. End of Eden.

The Jericho affair is incredibly similar: the British and the Americans
pretended to fear for the safety of their monitors, which were stationed
in Jericho according to an agreement which we shall touch upon later.
They told Mahmoud Abbas that they might withdraw them. At a time
secretly agreed upon with the Israeli Prime Minister, the British and
American monitors went out and the Israeli army went in. Preparations
for the action had been going on for weeks.

One thing should be said in favor of George Bush and Tony Blair (and his
miserable Foreign Minister, Jack Straw): they have returned the oldest
profession in the world to the oldest city in the world. The scarlet
thread of Rahav the Harlot (Joshua, 2) leads to this act of prostitution.


LIEUTENANT GENERAL Dan Halutz can be proud of this victory. In the past,
he became famous for saying that all he feels is a slight bump on his
wing when he drops a bomb on a civilian neighborhood, even if women and
children are also killed. After that he sleeps well, he said. Now he has
won real glory: with the help of dozens of tanks, gunships and heavy
bulldozers he has succeeded in capturing six unarmed prisoners in the
tranquil, non-violent little town that lives off tourism.

In the course of the action, Halutz' soldiers created a disgusting
picture that has sullied the image of the Israeli army in the eyes of
the hundreds of millions who saw it on their screens. They ordered the
Palestinian policemen and prisoners to take their clothes off, and then
let them be photographed, again and again - and again and again - in
their underpants. There was no need for that. The pretext, that they
might have hidden explosive belts on their body, was ridiculous under
these circumstances. And even if it had been necessary, it could surely
have been done far from the cameras. No doubt: the intention was to
humiliate, to debase, to satisfy sadistic tendencies.

A person can, perhaps, get over beatings, or even torture. But he cannot
ever forget humiliation, especially when it was done in full view of his
family, friends, colleagues and all people around the world. How many
new terrorists were born at that moment?

On that day I happened to visit friends in a Palestinian village in the
West Bank. We - my hosts and I - were riveted to the TV screen (mainly
Aljazeera). When these pictures appeared, I could not look them in the
eye for shame.


THE ISRAELI media had a ball. Not just a ball, they went gaga for sheer
joy. They contributed their special part to the loathsome event and
stood to attention behind the government. Like a flock of parrots,
unanimously repeating the mendacious official version.

It was a festival of brain-washing. The "Murderers of Ze'evi" have been
captured! It was our national duty! We could not rest until they fell
into our hands, dead or alive!

These three words - "Murderers of Ze'evi" - turned into a mantra. They
were repeated endlessly on radio and television, and appeared in the
printed newspapers (all of them!) and the speeches of the politicians
(all of them!). That's how it is: Israelis are "murdered", Palestinians
are "eliminated".

Why, for Gods sake? Rehavam Zee'vi, a cabinet minister at the time,
preached day and night about "transfer" - the euphemism for driving the
Palestinians out of Palestine. Compared to him, Jean-Marie le Pen in
France and Joerg Haider in Austria are bleeding-heart liberals. His
targeted killing is no different from the targeted killing of Sheik
Ahmed Yassin and scores of other Palestinian leaders, including Abu-Ali
Mustafa, the chief of the Popular Front, who was allowed by Israel to
return from Syria to the Palestinian territories after Oslo.

This is part of the endless chain of violence: The Israeli army killed
Abu-Ali Mustafa. He was succeeded by Ahmed Sa'adat, who, according to
the Israeli security service, ordered the killing of Rehavam Ze'evi in
revenge, and whose capture was the aim of the Jericho action. And so it
goes on.

Let's be clear: I oppose all murders. Theirs and ours. The murder of
Abu-Ali Mustafa and the murder of Rehavam Ze'evi. But whoever spills the
blood of a Palestinian leader cannot complain about the shedding of the
blood of an Israeli one.


THERE IS still another side to the affair, which is no less disgusting:
the attitude towards the keeping of agreements.

Sa'adat and his colleagues were held in Jericho in accordance with an
agreement signed by Israel. On the strength of it, they left the
Mukata'a in Ramallah, during the siege on Yasser Arafat, and entered the
Palestinian jail in Jericho. The US and the UK guaranteed their safety
and undertook to monitor their imprisonment.

What has happened now in Jericho is a blatant breach of the agreement.
The miserable pretexts invented in Jerusalem, London and Washington are
an insult to the intelligence of a 10-year old.

Israeli governments often regard the breach of an agreement as a
patriotic act if it serves our purpose. Agreements are binding only on
the other side. This is not only a primitive morality, it is also
damaging to our national interests. Who will sign an agreement with us,
knowing that it obligates only him? How can Israel convincingly demand
that the Hamas leaders "accept all the agreements" signed by the
Palestinian Authority?

Many Israelis believe that the Jericho action was a brilliant exercise.
I found it simply loathsome.
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