that maneuver, preparing the hearts for the atrocities of the present
Intifada, the Israeli nationalistic media – especially the quality
daily Ha'aretz – continued Barak's work by publishing lengthy
reports on the purportedly "confused" or even "vanishing" peace
camp. The recipe was very simple: take an established mainstream
Israeli nationalist with softy and/or lofty manners, portray him
as a lifelong peace activist persecuted for decades for his courageous
dissent, let him pour his usual anti-Palestinian rhetoric, and publish
it under an attractive title like "Amos Oz Regrets" or "Yehoshua's
Penitence". After such a front-page story would appear in Ha'aretz's
weekly magazine, you can be sure no one would attempt to organise
a peace rally for quite a while.
Israeli peace camp did not dissolve: it was banned by a concerted
public campaign, a joint venture of the government and the media.
When people are told they have "vanished" or are "confused", they
turn their efforts, at best, to convincing themselves and others
that they exist; they have little energies for more than that.
OF THE PEACE CAMP
last weeks have witnessed a change. The single most important factor
in it was a petition signed by some 50 reserve soldiers and officers,
saying that they refuse to serve
in the occupied territories. This initiative became the focus
of a heated public debate. The military/political system – there
is no real separation between the two in Israel's "democracy" –
its best to strangle the issue. The director of the public radio
even issued a ban on discussing the subject on air till further
notice. Counter-petitions of soldiers "proud to serve their country"
were published, with direct organisational and probably also financial
assistance from the army. The personal file of each of the refusers
was checked in an attempt to find some rubbish to throw. Chief-of-Staff
Mofaz blamed unnamed "political factors" of being behind the refusal;
this turned out to be a mistake, since politicians hastened to ask
the highest military commander to keep his hands out of politics.
commentators criticised the fact that the discussion focused on
the legitimacy of refusal, stirring away from the actual atrocities
that moved the refusers to take their radical step. Though this
is true, it should not obscure the importance of the debate: whether
the speaker opposes refusal or supports it, the very discussion
signals to ever more soldiers that refusal is an option. Indeed,
the number of signatories is increasing steadily.
rather unexpected, ambiguous but still extremely influential opinion
was voiced by the former head of Israel's Security Services, Ami
Ayalon – from the very top of Israel's military echelons. Though
Ayalon clearly rejected a general refusal to serve in the territories,
he said that as far as he was concerned, not too many but rather
too few soldiers were refusing blatantly illegal orders, like shooting
unarmed youth. "I am very worried by the number of Palestinian children
shot in the past year", he added.
WHAT IS THE
are two Israeli peace camps. One peace camp wants peace with the
Palestinians, without occupation and without settlements. The other
"peace camp" – I'll be using quotes to refer to it – wants peace
with the settlers, not with the Palestinians. The issue of refusal
is the very Shibboleth
dividing the two camps.
hard-core of the "peace camp" has traditionally been Meretz,
the left-liberal party whose main function is to stress the nationalistic
consensus by marking its dovish end. Under the authoritarian leadership
of Yossi Sarid (now entitled "leader of the opposition in the Knesset"),
Meretz's business has been to distract its voters' energies
from opposition to the occupation to anti-Semitically tinted hatred
towards orthodox Jews. With quite a few exceptions, Meretz
is against refusal, using such idiotic pretexts as "I cannot support
refusal on the Left and oppose it on the Right" (Sarid), hinting
at right-wing Rabbis urging soldiers to refuse if ordered to evacuate
settlers. An absurd argument, for sure – why not support justified
refusals and oppose unjustified ones? – but politics is not a matter
of logic and integrity, certainly not in the "peace camp".
PEACE NOW FIT IN?
because of its memorable logo, maybe because of good things it may
have done when I was a child, Peace
Now is still considered, especially in the US, as the incarnation
of the Israeli peace camp. Peace Now is a non-parliamentary
movement, whose supporters are more-or-less identical with the Meretz
constituency. Now it is high time to tell the truth: Peace Now
is a marginal mainstream movement, far from any dissent, not part
of the Israeli peace camp, but the very essence of the "peace camp".
During the last eight years, Peace Now has been virtually
absent from the Israeli public sphere. Its only activity worth mentioning
is monitoring the expansion of the settlements, a documentation
project issuing a communication to the press every few months.
mass demonstration planned for this Saturday (9 February) can clarify
the issue. The rally – postponed from last Saturday for technical
reasons – is organised by an ad hoc "coalition for peace" comprising
an unprecedented large number of bodies. Among the initiating organisations
are Uri Avneri's Gush Shalom,
for Peace, Ta'ayush
(Arab-Jewish Partnership), The
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, The Monitoring
Committee, which unites the leaders of Israel's Arab citizens,
Yesh Gvul, the Jewish-Arab
community Neve Shalom, groups
of students and lecturers at four Israeli universities, The Association
of Arab Students, Kvisa Sh'chora (Gays and Lesbians Against
the Occupation), The Druze Initiative Committee and many
youth movements take part in the coalition, among them the Meretz
Youth (who take part though their mother party does not!), the
Communist Youth, Hadash Youth and Balad
Youth. Never since the beginning of the present Intifada
has there been such a wide coalition for peace.
the speakers invited in the rally are signatories of the refusal
petition and others public figures who support refusal. Though it
was invited, Peace Now not only refused to participate, it
is now trying to sabotage the rally by publishing big ads in the
Israeli dailies announcing a demonstration a week later and signing
"coalition for peace", in an obvious attempt to confuse demonstrators
and tempt them to believe the rally was postponed once again. If
Peace Now's donors wonder where their money goes, here is
an answer: to pay for expensive whole-page ads aimed at splitting
and breaking the resistance to the Occupation and to Israel's war
crimes from within.
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has
a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and
is currently working on his PhD thesis. He teaches in the Tel-Aviv
University's Department of Comparative Literature. He also works
as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as
a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth.
Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter
from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
Now?! Well, Maybe Later
Horowitz Rewrites the Past
Say No to
a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War – Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace