“Cuando uno atribuye todos los errores a los otros y se cree irreprochable, está preparando el retorno de la violencia, revestida de un vocabulario nuevo, adaptada a unas circunstancias inéditas. Comprender al enemigo quiere decir también descubrir en qué nos parecemos a él.” – Tzvetan Todorov

viernes, 26 de febrero de 2010

Training our boys to be bullies - Larry Derfner

Common Ground News Service - Middle East


Training our boys to be bullies
by Larry Derfner
25 February 2010

JERUSALEM - The main thing that drew me to Israel was that here, you put your life on the line in a great political struggle, unlike in the West, where political struggle is something you talk about from a safe distance.

The political struggle for Israelis, as far as I’m concerned, is to find a way to live in a rough neighbourhood without acting like bullies on the one hand, or like pushovers on the other. To be strong enough to deter attack, but not to pick fights. To stand up for your rights, but to know where your rights end and the neighbour’s begins. It’s not easy, but that’s the challenge—to live with both a backbone and a conscience. In short, to be (if I may apply this term to both genders) a mensch.

For Israelis who aren’t pacifists, part of being a mensch is serving in the “citizen’s army”. I was glad for the chance to serve, and I want and expect my sons to do so as well. It’s part of this whole idea of not living a sheltered life, of not letting others fight your battles, of doing your part to protect your country.

But I’m afraid that today, the idea of going into the army is not about becoming a mensch, or about learning to stand up for yourself without pushing others around, but mainly about pushing others around.

In this ultra-nationalistic atmosphere, way too many teenagers see the army as an opportunity to take revenge on the country’s enemies, to show the Arabs and the whole hostile, hypocritical world how strong we are, how fearless, how much greater than any other nation we are.

In Friday’s Ha’aretz there was a story about “Footsteps of the Fighters”, a motivational camp in the Golan Heights for 12th graders being run by Avigdor Kahalani, a Yom Kippur War hero and former “Labor hawk” in the Knesset. Since he started the programme five years ago, some 180,000 12th graders have come to “tour battle sites, meet combat soldiers, watch a live-fire exercise” and listen to Kahalani’s stock motivational lecture.

“I was an MK, I met with Arafat, I hosted Abu Mazen in my home, I did a lot of things for peace. I tell you, the hatred for us cannot be bridged. Peace can be made if tomorrow we all move to New York. Nobody will take us in there anyhow. We can’t stop protecting ourselves. We have no other country,” Kahalani told the young crowd, according to someone there who quoted him back to Ha’aretz, which in turn confirmed the quotes with Kahalani.

He poured out his bile on Israeli draft-dodgers, saying gruffly how he could have “killed” one celebrity who got out of the army and how he would “deal personally” with others who tried.

“Those who don’t serve won’t pay taxes, they’ll bring crime, drugs—don’t accept them! Cast them out!” he said.

But that wasn’t all—he even ridiculed soldiers who ask to do their service close to home, calling them the equivalent of “mama’s boys”. For the big emotional climax, Kahalani held up a large Israeli flag and said, “I want to give you a gift. I want to give you this flag. The whole world has flags. But they’re ugly. Red, black, green. Who has a flag with a Star of David on it? Who has one that is blue and white?”

The note-taker reported that the 12th graders responded to Kahalani’s speech with “stormy applause”. Some 180,000 youngsters have been put through this indoctrination, just before they go into the army. In the last five years, that means a huge proportion of IDF recruits. And if they’re anything like those in the Ha’aretz story, they ate it up.

I don’t blame the 12th graders, of course; “Footsteps of the Fighters” just reflects the times they’re growing up in: There’s no chance for peace, the Arabs hate us, always have, always will. We have no other country because no other country wants us, and besides, they’re all ugly anyway; only our country is beautiful—blue and white. Listen up, everybody—it’s us against the world. Now go get ‘em.

I remember when there was an Israeli type called the “soldier for peace”, when it was believed entirely possible, when it was considered no contradiction at all, to be a dedicated IDF soldier and a dedicated opponent of war and conquest. Until this last rotten decade, Israel’s military class, as far as I know, was the world’s only military class that tended to the left side of its country’s political spectrum—that was a voice for peace.

No more. Now the voice of the military establishment comes from the retired generals showing up in the TV newsrooms urging us to war, congratulating the IDF, Shin Bet or Mossad for every reckless bombing and assassination they pull off.

There’s no balance anymore, no tempering of the soldier’s spirit with an urgency to prevent killing and dying. There’s no more attempt to see if we can simply stand up straight and survive—no, it’s either swagger or cringe, and we prefer swagger.

In 21st century Israel, this is what it means to be a man. But it’s nobody’s idea of what it means to be a mensch.


* Larry Derfner writes for The Jerusalem Post. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from The Jerusalem Post.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, 17 February 2010,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.


lunes, 15 de febrero de 2010

Middle East Report Online: Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem by Joel Beinin

Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem
Joel Beinin

February 14, 2010

(Joel Beinin is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University and a contributing editor of Middle East Report.)

The neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a 20-minute walk up the hill from the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem, has become the focal point of the struggle over the expanding project of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In the first week of February a settler in Sheikh Jarrah attacked a young boy from an Arab family evicted so that Jewish activists could move in. The al-Ghawis were displaced in August 2009, and since then they have been living in front of their former home in a tent, refusing to move in protest of the eviction. Settlers have gone after them more than once. On this occasion, an older al-Ghawi, Nasir, was beaten and menaced with an M-16 by a settler when he attempted to protect the young boy. Police arrived on the scene and disarmed the settler. But they also served Nasir with a restraining order forbidding him to enter Sheikh Jarrah for 15 days. Then the police destroyed the al-Ghawis’ tent. The makeshift abode was rebuilt, but the next day police and municipal officials came to the site and threatened to dismantle it a second time.


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jueves, 11 de febrero de 2010


"¿Quieren ayudar a la paz de Israel y Palestina? Vengan"

Los dos hombres abrazados en la fotografía han sido enemigos mortales. Uno es Daniel Atar, quien llegó a coronel de la Brigada Golani, la más prestigiosa del Ejército israelí. En 1982, Atar iba en la avanzada de la invasión israelí de Líbano con una misión muy concreta: liquidar a militantes del movimiento palestino.

Los dos hombres abrazados en la fotografía han sido enemigos mortales. Uno es Daniel Atar, quien llegó a coronel de la Brigada Golani, la más prestigiosa del Ejército israelí. En 1982, Atar iba en la avanzada de la invasión israelí de Líbano con una misión muy concreta: liquidar a militantes del movimiento palestino. El otro es Qadura Musa. Periodista. Fue el máximo responsable de Al Fatah en la zona de Yenín y pasó 12 años en las cárceles de Israel. Viendo cómo, tras la cena, Musa se saca del bolsillo unos palillos y, en un gesto de familiaridad indudable, le pasa uno a Atar, la cuestión de cuál es la clave de la paz entre israelíes y palestinos obtiene una respuesta automática: la voluntad de personas dispuestas a arriesgarse.

"Lejaim [por la vida]", alza su copa de vino el israelí en el restaurante marroquí que ha elegido porque es un tipo de comida con el que se siente "como en casa". El palestino responde entrechocando su copa de agua. Ambos son muy diferentes. Atar come en mangas de camisa, mientras Musa no se quita la chaqueta ni la corbata. El primero es de respuestas cortas, mientras el segundo se alarga. Pero ambos se sientan juntos en el mismo lado de la mesa y se tocan mientras hablan. Atar se refiere siempre al palestino como Abu Musa, que refleja familiaridad y respeto. El palestino utiliza Danny para referirse al ex militar.

Hoy en día, Atar y Musa son los respectivos alcaldes de Gilboa y Yenín. Ciudades vecinas y hermanadas pero separadas, primero por años de violencia y luego por la barrera construida por Israel. Y son los impulsores de un proyecto que en poquísimo tiempo está consiguiendo unos resultados espectaculares y que ahora explican por todo el mundo. Atar, que milita en el Partido Laborista y es admirador del asesinado Isaac Rabin, ha logrado que el Gobierno israelí acceda a abrir la separación entre ambas ciudades y el resultado es un intercambio sin precedentes. Más de 10.000 israelíes cruzan cada semana al lado palestino. Ahora quieren que Yenín sea conocido en Europa no por los violentos combates de 2002, sino por ser un ejemplo de convivencia y seguridad. "Hace poco estuvo Tony Blair comiendo falafel en la calle. No llevábamos escolta y no se lo podía creer", explica Musa. "El mensaje es éste: hemos logrado cambiar las cosas en muy poco tiempo. Yenín es uno de los lugares más ordenados del mundo gracias al coraje y la visión de Abu Musa", dice Atar mientras ordena al periodista que tome menos notas y coma más. "Danny Atar está dando un ejemplo de convivencia excepcional entre judíos y árabes. Ha comprendido la necesidad de dos pueblos en dos Estados", replica Musa.

Las familias de ambos alcaldes se conocen y Atar hace encendidos elogios de la hospitalidad de su amigo. El israelí ha sido elegido por sus vecinos en cuatro ocasiones consecutivas. En 1995 conoció a Musa en un kibutz. El palestino había sido enviado allí por Yasir Arafat para estudiar ese modelo de productividad. "Hay mucha gente en Europa que dice que quiere ayudar a la paz. Yo les digo: vengan, pasen varias noches en Yenín, gasten allí su dinero y ayuden a su economía", subraya Atar.

Antes de irse, Abu Musa resume lo que piensa. "Danny conoce la guerra y no quiere que sus hijos la padezcan. Yo conozco la cárcel y no la quiero para mis hijos".


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