JEWISH WOMAN SPEAKS OUT - SHULAMIT ALONI
|She founded and
was Chairperson of Civil Rights Party/Ratz
1973-95, Member of the Knesset 1974-96. 1973-74
Minister without Portfolio for Human Rights,
1992-93 Minister of Education and Culture,1992-96
Member of The National Security Council, 1993-96
Minister of Communication, Science and Art
(1995-96 Second in the Cabinet). (b. 1929-).
This interview was given to Attila Somfelvi of Ynet - the
Web site associated with Yediot Acharonot Israel's
largest circulating daily.The Interview was translated by
Sol Salbe. from the original.
Former Meretz Leader Shulamit Aloni has established a
reputation for her critique of modern Israeli society.
Recently, in front of hundreds of supporters of Yossi
Beilin, who had just been elected head of Yahad, Shulamit
Aloni - "Oum Meretz" [The Meretz Mother (in
Arabic)] - settled accounts with everyone: stylishly,
sharply and in her own inimitable style. No one escaped
her acerbic tongue. They all copped it: the government,
apathetic Israeli society, the army and even her
left-wing colleagues who have fallen asleep at the wheel.
"Stop being politically correct!" she lashed
out. "It's time to tell the truth to the people,
straight to their faces!"Now following the election
of Beilin, whom she supported, Aloni has given an
exclusive interview to Ynet, explaining why she endorsed
him ("he's been consistent on the issue of
peace") but why she does not believe that the Left
could recover anytime soon ("populists").
She warns against the disintegration of Israeli society
("gross insensitivity"), and rules out any
comeback in politics ("I don't miss it") and
states: "I am beginning to understand why a whole
nation (the Germans) was able to say: `We did not
What do you mean when you say that you understand the
These days you meet people around the country who
say: "I don't want to know, I have given up
reading the papers." Do you know how many
people are unwilling to read Gideon Levy and Amira Hass
[Haaretz reporters in the Occupied Territories] because
they simply don't want to know what is happening there?
They do not deny the accuracy of these two journalists'
articles, but they simply don't want to know.
We have always angrily and justly rejected the Germans'
claim that they "did not know". They simply
didn't want to know. They worshipped the Fuehrer and
their army. We also have people who do not know and do
not want to know. What they know is that they must
display their patriotism. And what is more patriotic than
a war? So now we have the national flag and coat of
arms in every classroom and we teach the students the
anthem. There is even a fool [religious Likud MK Leah
Ness] who proposed to write "In God We Trust "
on our currency. Had she known that the Nazi army's belt
carried the message: "God with us", she
wouldn't have associated the Jews' God with money.
But a patriotic hysteria is pervading here and people
just keep quiet.
You do raise quite a complex concept with that comparison
Our society is being undermined by gross insensitivity
and by adulation of force. I am disturbed by our moral
disintegration. I am disturbed by the arrogant and
light-hearted way in which we kill and
murder Palestinians. I am disturbed that when 400 olive
trees were uprooted in the Territories, no one was held
to account. I cannot find any peace of mind anymore when
I see this Wall that we are
building. We are pillaging the land and destroying the
way of life of people who have lived in the same place
for centuries. When Arik Sharon's mates had their land
expropriated, they received huge compensation. Yet we are
busy destroying greenhouses, plantations and the vital
infrastructures of three million people, and then pretend
that we are the victims.
I cannot live with the fact that our sharpshooters are
killing people. I cannot live with the way we continually
wail that we are the victim, and do not examine our own
morality. It's important to realise that appalling as
suicide bombings are, aerial bombardment kills
more. While we feel the pain of our 900 dead, we
tend to forget that we have murdered 3000 Palestinian
civilians. We are the violent ones; we are the cheats.
Our very foundations have been undermined by our
adulation of force, and all this is called a democracy.
There cannot be democracy when we rule over three million
people who have no voice. We simply have to get out
of there. We do not even try to understand that what the
Palestinians want is sovereignty and human rights.
This gross insensitivity that you keep talking about,
where does it come from?
There's an absolute moral thoughtlessness that stems from
the powers that be. When General [Amos] Yadlin, the head
of military colleges, writes an article stating that it
is moral to kill women and children while carrying out a
targeted liquidation, and a moral luminary like Professor
Asa Kasher endorses his view, then you have a problem.
Israeli Arabs get detained at the international airport
and their luggage is taken apart. There are
instructions for more and more Left activists to be held
up on their way abroad to force them to remain silent.
Why? What is happening to us? But people remain silent as
not to get into trouble.
Things happen here that drive you mad. Why was there no
inquiry following the death of the American protester
Rachel Corrie, who was run over? Why didn't the
government condemn it? Why was there no inquiry when
journalists were shot, which made it OK to murder left,
right and centre? The army uses sharpshooters who
practise by shooting Arabs. The moral
disintegration of our society is the direct consequence
of what is happening in the Territories. We are
responsible for the shedding of Jewish blood.
What does that mean? Is somebody making sure that Jewish
blood gets shed as well?
In Yediot Acharonot, Nahum Barnea wrote the other day
that Sharon had told him (and it wasn't only Sharon) that
Jewish blood is the most efficient cement for maintaining
a national consensus. When terrorism is on the wane, then
people feel free to ask questions, critics can be heard
and the spirit of defiance grows. There's no mileage in
non-existent terrorism. I ask you, wasn't it obvious that
there would be a response to our savage operations in the
Gaza Strip? Everyone knew that there would be a
response. Who then is responsible for the Jewish
blood that is shed? We are. We with all our might
continue to hit more and more. They use terrorism and we
do the same, only harder. Our strategy is the strategy of
force and not of reconciliation. Had we chosen the path
of reconciliation we would not have stuffed up [former
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Abu Mazen during
his period in office. These days, everyone agrees that
the government and army were wrong in tripping him
up. But in our country we treat the army as sacred
as if it were a value in and by itself that unites us and
is our raison d'etre. There are many who think that it is
not the state which has its army, but the army which has
How is this expressed?
We have just bought extremely sophisticated planes that
cost umpteen billion dollars. Who needed them? We could
have spent this money on health and relieving poverty. We
are in peace with Egypt and Jordan. Syria is seeking
peace and is no longer a factor. Iraq is not a threat and
Iran is the problem of the whole world. But [Iranian-born
Defence Minster] Shaul Mofaz has already jumped up and
threatened the Iranians, in Persian, that he would bomb
their nuclear reactor. What's he getting excited about?
For the past 37 years our Jewish paranoia has been stoked
by brainwashing. We get told that they want to
exterminate us. Who are "they"? We are at peace
with Egypt and Jordan and these two countries do not
threaten us anymore. So who is going to throw us into the
sea, the Palestinians? But this is the kind of paranoia
that is being fostered here. The present war is not a war
of survival, but a colonial war.
When you say that everyone remains silent, do you include
the Israeli Left?
Yes. It was wrong for members of the Left to lash out
against the refuseniks. In a morally degenerated state
that forces women to give birth by the roadside, we ought
to be praising our refuseniks instead of attacking them.
But everyone wants to be careful because everyone wants
to show how patriotic they are. I regard myself as very
patriotic, but a true patriot is one who voices
disapproval of our moral degeneration. I am told that we
need to be populists; we have to be popular, grovel to
the masses in order to attract them. It's easy to sway
the mob There`s a tendency around the world
to frown upon nationalism, but in our country we nail it
to our mastheads. It's a sin committed by all the
political parties. The Left is so besotted with returning
to power that it is willing to adapt the Right's agenda
to get there.
Will the election of Yossi Beilin as head of Yahad, in
reality the Left, change anything?
I can't see any changes for the moment. I am out of
politics and one shouldn't offer advice without accepting
responsibility. I supported Yossi because he has been
consistent in his struggle for peace. I do not believe
that we can renew and rebuild Israeli society on the
basis of liberty, justice and peace without first making
peace. It's our worst, most festering wound.
Do you think the Left can find a new track?
I am not a believer. I do not believe anymore. I only
hope that the dynamics [of the situation] will push it
forward. But those dynamics will only arise when
[Beilin's opponent in the ballot] Ran Cohen), Beilin and
[Knesset member] Chaim Oron and the whole gang wake up.
In recent times the only Meretz voices heard were those
of [left- wingers] Zahava Gal-on and Roman Bronfman. But
their voices were those of individuals, not of a party. I
want everyone to wake up, to relate to the groups that
are fighting for peace, to speak out, to attend meetings,
to criticise the government. It's time we set up
political stalls in the streets. One has to be daring and
not be constrained by political correctness. We have to
tell the truth; to state that our struggle with the
Palestinians is a colonial struggle. We have to declare
that what we are doing in the Territories is terrible. We
have to admit that we too bombed the British people when
they occupied us. We must show that we are taking money
for the poor and investing it in the Territories. The
minute there's an outcry on this subject, when there's
criticism of resources being wasted, that's when the
country will begin to change.
If it were up to me, I would take the residents of [poor
development towns] Dimona and Yeroham to the Territories
and show them the settlers' nice houses surrounded by
greenery with matching green roofs . Let them see the
destruction [of the Palestinian infrastructure], the
settlers-only roads and that monstrous fence. Let them
see, so that they would never be able to say that they
didn' t know. When they see it and remember that they
haven't been paid their wages for months, they may stop
voting for the Likud.
Do you see yourself making a comeback in politics?
I do not see myself coming back. I raise my voice, I
lecture and I write articles. But I am not coming back. I
don't miss politics. The fact that Sharon and Peres are
still at it at their age does not
obligate me to do likewise. Spain has got a 44-year-old
Prime Minster. Tony Blair wasn't quite fifty when he came
into power. It' s about time we let the new
generation develop. Let's not cut them down. Remember
what they did to Mitzna.
Who is an appropriate leader: Barak, Netanyahu?
Ehud Barak was a real disaster and I hope they never let
him set foot in politics ever again. He failed because he
was always up to tricks. Barak totally misunderstood
people's attitude. When the
throngs shouted "anyone but Shas", he did not
comprehend what they were seeking. As a result we have
the growth of the [secularist but redneck] Shinui. He
brought disaster upon disaster on us. He never
implemented the agreements [with the Palestinians] that
the Israeli government had signed. He even poked fun at
Netanyahu who had given [back] Hebron and boasted that in
his time in office he had given nothing to the
Palestinians. As for Netanyahu, I do not subscribe to his
economic policy but at least Netanyahu is a man of
action. Barak had nothing but words.
[Translated by Sol Salbe. from the original. Note: I
did use a structure provided by Edith Rubinstein of Women
in Black (Belgium) who had in turn used a French
translation by Pascal Fenaux ]
Sharon's willing accomplices
Bush and Blair will share in
the historic guilt Israel will bear for the crimes of
Sharon, writes Haim Bresheeth an
Israeli academic working at the University of East
London. He is the co- editor of The Gulf War and
the New World Order , published by Zed Books. http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/688/op8.htm
ventriloquist dummy speaking the words of its master,
we heard the world's most powerful man reciting a
script written in Jerusalem by one responsible for
bathing the Middle East in blood for decades. This
most bizarre spectacle -- Bush unable to answer a
simple question, repeating key phrases like a broken
automaton -- was then followed by the even more
bizarre suggestion by Blair that this was not a
departure from what was policy in Washington and
London for decades.
those who were shocked by Bush's retreat from his own
nonsense programme -- the celebrated roadmap -- let
us recall the conditions that led to this creature's
birth. It was Tony Blair who worked out that moving
towards a political solution on Palestine may elicit
Arab favour at a time most needed before the US and
the UK went to war on Iraq. The plan worked. Now the
roadmap is tossed like a rotten apple. Bush, reading
from his new script, dubbed Sharon's plan
"historic and courageous", presenting it as
a fresh start in Middle East history.
Sharon's book, Bush is just another pawn. Important
as he is at the moment, he serves the master plan of
ridding Palestine of its people -- a result to which
Sharon has committed his life's work. American
presidents come and go while Sharon stands firm for
decades, defeating all obstacles in his tireless,
barbaric mission. With the help he now gets from Bush
and Blair, he may yet complete his mission.
was the one to pioneer collective punishment and mass
murder in the early 1950s as the creator and
commander of Israel's first notorious death squad,
Unit 101. His early military career was spent in
killing: not enemy soldiers but civilians in villages
such as Kibyia. In Gaza during the early 1970s, he
instigated a reign of terror, supposedly designed to
end Palestinian resistance to the occupation. It was
really another phase in his lifelong struggle to make
as many Palestinians as possible flee their own
destroyed large parts of Beirut, and killed tens of
thousands in his Lebanon war of 1982, in his
obsessive hunt of Arafat and the PLO. As is well
known, his campaigns have not been fully successful.
Gaza has become the centre of Palestinian resistance
and Arafat returned to Palestine after Oslo. But one
of his other campaigns is about to mature: it is, of
course, the grand project of settlements in the
there is one man who can say he is responsible for
the network of settlements, numbering hundreds and
housing more than half a million Israelis, it is
Ariel Sharon. As minister in whatever ministry he
served, he only had one agenda and single-minded
priority: to enlarge the settlements and strengthen
them, surround all Palestinian towns and villages
with roads which dissect their land yet are closed to
them; with roadblocks cutting off village from
village, farmers from their lands, workers from their
jobs, water from habitations, children from schools
and patients from hospitals. Four million
Palestinians are living in total isolation in
conditions that resemble more and more those
experienced by Jews in ghettoes under Nazi control.
constant battering of Arafat in Ramallah, the death
sentence declared, now delivered, against all
Palestinian leadership, the Apartheid wall, and now
the Bush declaration where the settlements emerge
fresh and clean-smelling, have all been phases in the
Sharon project of closing all options for Palestinian
life and existence. The aim here is not to get
rid of the resistance to occupation, but to inflame
the situation constantly, until a "final
solution" to the Palestinian "problem"
can be initiated. The continued resistance only fuels
the Sharon fire: he will hit at the Palestinians come
what may, but the resistance helps him to get Bush
and Blair on board and to get credit for a plan which
is against every tenet of international law.
sickening climate of fear that has now engulfed the
US and the rest of the West, the damage that such
moves will inflict on the rule of international law
is not even being considered. Neither are comments by
Arab or Palestinian voices. Both failures are signs
of the political disease that took hold in the West,
infecting its societies. The reign of terror and
unreason hailed by Bin Laden has only been accepted
and enhanced by Bush and Blair, not to mention
Bush move is likely to embolden Sharon further into
ever-increasing attacks on Palestinian life,
gradually but surely leading towards the goal to
which he dedicated his life. The next stage for
Sharon is the physical removal of most, if not all,
Palestinians from their homeland.
the unlawful military control of the territories
occupied in 1967, made Kosher by Rabbi Bush, gives
Israel over 90 per cent of Palestine. In that area
lives just over five million Israeli Jews while four
million Palestinians are consigned to a ghetto
encompassing less than 10 per cent of their own
country. But that achievement is not enough for
Sharon. The next stage is "transfer" -- the
ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
and Blair's support for this man of blood brings such
a moment closer. While Sharon is a master in breaking
international law, he would have never got away with
it without the backing and support of the most
powerful nation on earth, with the UK holding its
train slavishly. The responsibility for the blood,
misery and global mayhem that Sharon is yet to cause
will be shared by those who have enabled his criminal
actions, and by those who stood by and let it happen.
The writer is an Israeli academic working at the
University of East London. He is the co- editor of
The Gulf War and the New World Order , published
by Zed Books.
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