(Zalman Amit/Daphna Levit, Israeli Rejectionism. A Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process, Pluto, London-New York, pp 208.)
After having negotiated for 20 years with different Israeli governments about a solution to the conflict in the Middle East, the Palestinian leadership is sick and tired of the charade that the U.S., the rest of the West and even the occupied Palestinians under the rule of Mahmud Abbas call “peace process”. Abbas asks the United Nations to grant the “State of Palestine” full membership status. The Israeli government fiercely opposes this move and so does the U.S. Since 1967, when Israel´s violations of international norms were brought before the UN Security Council time and again, the U.S. government has backed it off-hand. For the large majority of U.S. governments, Israel was always the “good guy” even after it attacked the USS liberty in the June war of 1967 in international waters off the shore of Israel and killed 34 US marines. At the question, who is responsible for the stalemate in the progress towards peace in the Middle East for the last 80 years, the book “Israeli Rejectionism” comes into play.
Already in the introduction of this book, the authors blame Israeli leadership for its rejectionist attitude towards peace. “Our position is that Israel was never primarily interested in establishing peace with its neighbors unless such a peace was totally on its own terms.” (11) According to the authors, Israel has repeatedly proclaimed its commitment to peace, but it´s real political strategy has been to thwart any real possibility of peace. It´s leadership has always been convinced “that peace is not in Israel`s interest”. As history shows, this holds true up till now. This peace-rejecting attitude neither evolved with the occupation of the rest of Palestine in 1967 nor with the establishment of the state in 1948 but can be traced back to the first Zionist leaders such as Theodor Herzl and especially David Ben-Gurion as the authors write. As [the] authors state: [it is] not Israel which lacks a viable “partner for peace”, as the Israeli propaganda tells the public, but it is the other way around: the Palestinians have no reliable “partner for peace”. To prove this fallacy, they run through a gamut of statements, starting from the slogan “Palestine – homeland for the Jews?” via “Barak leaves no stone unturned” to “Peace on a downhill slope”. On this journey, they find the peace-resistant party: the different governments of Israel.
This assertion by the authors runs counter to the propaganda promoted by Israeli hasbara and their friends in the U.S. and elsewhere. Both authors were initially true believers of the socialist Zionist cause serving the neophyte state within the kibbutz movement. Over many years, they were loyal followers of Zionist ideology. Zalman Amit particularly was a determined Zionist, who was even an emissary of the United Kibbutz Movement in Canada. There, he delivered sermons about the virtues of Zionism. At one of the Jewish jamborees, which he organized, he gave a speech in which he elaborated on the standard left-wing Zionist beliefs. After he finished, an Israeli friend who attend the gatherings for several days, asked him: “Do you really believe this?” So he explained to him that Ben-Gurion “never wanted peace”. The Zionist façade slowly cracked. Both authors engaged in the June war of 1967. After the Six Day War, they finally experienced their aha-experience regarding the reality of Zionism. At that time, they were already adults. At that junction, they realized how difficult it was to admit to themselves that they had entertained a pipe dream. Finally, they realized that Israel always was the side that sabotaged opportunities for peace with the Arabs. Moshe Dayan’s famous “telephone strategy” was an excuse for him to “do nothing”. Israel waited for a telephone call from the Arabs but the call never came!
Among many historians and politicians, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, is highly regarded. But by the picture the authors draw of his policy, he seems as a mere rejectionist; he did everything to sabotage any compromise towards the Arab side. His policy, according to the authors, was to gain as much territory with a minimum of Arab inhabitants. As his writings show, transfer and expulsion were political options. When Israel together with France and Britain conquered the Sinai in 1956, he talked about the “Kingdom of Israel” encompassed biblical boundaries, but he also avoided any concrete commitment where Israel´s normal boarders should run. One day, before the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was made, the question of borders arose in a meeting of Zionist politicians. Ben-Gurion, according to the protocol, said this should be left to “developments”, a euphemism for further conquest. Up to this day, the Israeli leadership won’t tell where Israel’s exact borders should run. The authors show that former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser started several peace initiatives but to no avail. The Zionist leadership was not interested in them and depicted him “as an enemy of the State of Israel”. Ben-Gurion also plotted against his successor Moshe Sharett. He was also a driving force in the 1956 conspiracy against Egypt with the colonial powers of France and Britain to overthrow Nasser in the war of 1956. Although this assault was militarily successful, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory, especially for Ben-Gurion. In the UN Security Council, the US tried to condemn Israel as the aggressor. For the first time, Britain and France cast their veto against the US. Massive pressure from the Eisenhower administration led to the withdrawal of all occupying forces from Egyptian territory. Ben-Gurion’s “Third Kingdom of Israel” was short-lived, it just lasted for four days.
Between the Israeli attacks in 1956 and 1967 there have been a number of military encroachments and Israeli provocations against its Arab neighbors, such as on the Golan and against Gaza. After the June war of 1967 Ben-Gurion’s dream came true. Israel had captured land for which it claimed “biblical entitlement“. According to the authors, all of Israel’s leadership were “intoxicated“ by this achievement of “messianic dimensions“. In this mode of “drunken euphoria“ even self-proclaimed doves like Abba Eban referred to the armistice boundaries as the “Auschwitz lines“, and the nationalist Menachem Begin called for outright annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. The authors show that the Israeli government started right away with its colonial project by evacuating and destroying the Mugraby neighborhood adjacent to the Wailing Wall. Yigal Alon drafted at that time his famous “Allon Plan“, which still serves as a blueprint for Israel’s expansionist policies.
According to the authors – Zalman Amit and Daphna Levit – there are no major differences between Labor-, Kadima-, or Likud-led governments regarding colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). It is only a matter of rhetoric that divides the three political camps. Between the June war of 1967 and the Yom Kippur war in 1973 there have been several peace initiatives by President Nasser or his successor Anwar al-Sadat but Israel was only willing to make “peace“ according to its own terms. The “expansionist positions“ among Israel´s ruling political class continued as revealed by the “Galilee document” drafted by Prime Minister Golda Meir confident, Israel Galilee. “It was no conciliatory step towards peace, and reinforced the Egyptian and Syrian inclination to go to war.” (84)
Although the State of Israel had the upper hand, the sudden Yom Kippur war that dented the feeling of invincibility left Israel with a collective post-war trauma. Some Israeli politicians realized that the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by military means but only through a peace agreement. The reason why the peace process went nowhere lies, according to the authors, in the country’s unwillingness to give up the occupied territories and to recognize the national aspiration of the Palestinian people. The Israeli intransigence continued under the government of Menachem Begin, although he made peace with Egypt. After the fiasco in Lebanon, he was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir in 1983. Shamir “considered the only acceptable position for Israel was no retreat at all, and peace was not particularly high on his agenda“. (104) When Shamir was defeated by Yitzhak Rabin in the 1992 election, he made clear that “his intention was to drag out the negotiations for at least ten years“. (110) The peace conference in Madrid in 1991 agreed that all parties to the conflict should negotiate under Washington´s umbrella.
Space prevents from commenting on each particular historic incident the authors describe. One period is, however, worth mentioning. It’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s short term in office. He is one of the most rejeconist Israeli politicians, although he disguised himself, until 2011, in Labor clothes that are still considered “left-wing” by a few political pundits. He comes from a Zionist Kibbutz Movement, as Rabin´s Minister for the Interior he voted against the Oslo accords, and as Israel’s Prime Minister he destroyed not only the remnants of the so-called peace process but also the so-called Israeli Zionist left. His role at Camp David in the year 2000 was solely destructive. He played games not only with the Americans but also with Arafat and the Israeli public. He and Clinton blamed Yassir Arafat for the failure at Camp David. Actually, he was the one who deceived everybody in order to disguise his rejectionist attitude. The authors demonstrate this by quoting people who attended this meeting that could have led to peace if the U. S. would have played its role as an “honest broker” seriously.
After Ariel Sharon defeated Barak, in 2001, peace did not have a chance at all. The events of 9/11 gave Sharon a welcome pretext for dismantling Arafat’s administration in the autonomous areas and commit atrocities in the OPT. The authors’ description of the Olmert government gives no hope for the future, not to speak of the right-wing Netanyahu/Lieberman government. They come to the conclusion that a peace agreement was never concluded because it “was never Israel´s top priority”. (163). Israel´s military strength is one of its main trumps, “but Israel has practically evolved into an army that has a country”. (163) For the authors, Israel’s ruling class is so successful because the Israeli people want to see themselves as “protected and mighty”, and the settlement movement has been so successful because it presents itself as purely Jewish, authentic, and as a grass-roots force. Amit/Levit name many distortions: Israel is a substantial nuclear power with a powerful military; the Israeli Jewish people live in a “self-imposed ghetto” and nourish their own sense of victimhood, and claim they are constantly threatened from without. The authors see no prospect for peace in their lifetime.
The book’s special value is in demonstrating that the Arabs are not the ones who ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’, as Abba Eban used to say. The real rejectionists are Israel’s elites who seek further territory for their “Eretz Israel” at the cost of another people. That “Israel is no partner for peace” is a daring, but well argued, conclusion that should be thoroughly examined by all those who are involved in Middle Eastern affairs.
– Dr. Ludwig Watzal lives as a journalist in Bonn, Germany.
A former managing editor for an online newspaper, OpEdNews, has sued the city of Philadelphia and eight of its police officers for violating her Constitutional rights.
Cheryl Biren-Wright, Pennsauken, N.J., charges the defendants with violating her 1st, 4th, and 14th amendment rights. The civil action, filed in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, is based upon her arrest during a peaceful protest September 12, 2009, at the Army Experience Center (AEC) in the Franklin Mills Mall.
According to the complaint, Biren-Wright, who was not a part of the demonstration but at the mall as a reporter-photographer, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and conspiracy, second degree misdemeanors. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney.
The Philadelphia police also arrested and charged six protestors with conspiracy and failure to disperse—Elaine Brower, 55, New York, N.Y.; Richie Marini, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.; Joan Pleune, 70, Brooklyn, N.Y.(one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961); Beverly Rice, 72, New York, N.Y.; Debra Sweet, 57, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sarah Wellington, 26, Piermont, N.Y. Two months after Biren-Wright’s case was dropped, the six protestors were found not guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court.
Paul J. Hetznecker, who represented the six defendants in the criminal trial, and Biren-Wright in her civil suit, believes that police over-reaction to protestors, as well as their lack of knowledge or appreciation for Constitutional protections, may be “a systemic problem throughout the country.” Hetznecker says under Constitutional and state law, “There can not be an arbitrary and capricious decision to end the civil rights of the protestors.”
The civil suit complaint charges that police violated Biren-Wright’s First Amendment rights to “gather information . . . to cover a matter of public interest including the law enforcement activity in public places.” Actions by the police deprived her of 4th and 14th amendment rights that, according to the complaint, protect against “unreasonable search and seizure,” “loss of physical liberty,” and “freedom from excessive use of unreasonable and justified force.”
The suit lists six separate counts:
● Abridgement of her rights under the First Amendment to observe and record news in a public place;
● False arrest and imprisonment;
● Use of excessive force by the police;
● False arrest under state law;
● Common Law Assault under state law; and,
● Failure of the City of Philadelphia to adequately train and supervise its police.
The complaint charges that because of accepted practices, the defendants may have believed “that their actions would not be properly investigated by supervisory officers and that the misconduct would not be investigated or sanctioned, but would be tolerated.” The policy, according to the complaint, “demonstrates a deliberate indifference on the part of the policymakers of the City of Philadelphia to the constitutional rights of persons within the City, and were the cause of the violations of the Plaintiff’s rights. . . .”
Named in the suit in addition to the City of Philadelphia are Lt. Dennis Konczyk, officers Tyrone Wiggins, John Logan, Robert Anderson, Donald West, William Stuski, and two unnamed John Does.
The Philadelphia Police Department refused to comment about the suit as a matter of policy regarding “issues in court,” according to Jillian Russell, Department spokesperson.
In August 2008, the Army opened the AEC, a 14,500 square foot “virtual educational facility” with dozens of video games. The Center, deliberately located near an indoor skateboard park, replaced five more traditional recruiting offices, and was designated as a two-year pilot program. The initial cost was $12 million.
Army recruiters could not actively recruit children under 17, but could talk with the teens and answer any of their questions about the Army. Among the virtual games was one in which children as young as 13 could ride a stationary Humvee and shoot a simulated M-16 rifle at life-like video images of Muslims and terrorists.
Because of the emphasis upon war, and a requirement that all persons had to sign in at the center, thus allowing the recruiters to follow up as much as four or five years later, peace activists began speaking out against the AEC.
To counter what was quickly becoming a public relations problem, the Army sent out news releases, picked up by the mainstream media, and established a full social media campaign to explain the “benefits” of the AEC. The protests continued.
Elaine Brower, whose son was in Iraq on his third tour of duty, told OpEdNews a day after her arrest: “The AEC is giving guns to 13-year-olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghan civilians and U.S. military are being killed in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, we’re saying ‘no’ to these wars. We’ve got to stop the flow of youth into the military, where they’re being used to commit war crimes in our name.”
With a police permit, and escorted by officers from Philadelphia’s Civil Affairs Unit, about 200–250 protestors—most of them middle-aged or senior citizens, many of them veterans—had come to the AEC, believing their First Amendment rights were being protected. The protest, although noisy at times, was peaceful; the counter-demonstration wasn’t.
According to the complaint, “The counter-demonstrators [members of an organization known as The Gathering of Eagles] yelled, jeered and taunted the AEC protestors. At no time did [the police] direct, or attempt to limit the First Amendment activities of the counter-demonstrators,” nor were they ever told to disperse.
Throughout the demonstration, the protestors had not given any indication that they posed any physical threat to others. However, about 45 minutes after the demonstration began, the police, under direction of Lt. Konczyk, ordered the protestors to disperse.
At that point, Biren-Wright, according to the complaint, “placed herself outside the immediate area . . . so as not to interfere with the police activity.” She continued to photograph and report on the demonstration. The complaint charges that Lt. Konczyk, “without just cause or legal justification,” directed several officers to arrest her, walking past several protestors and counter-demonstrators. She says she told the officers she was a member of the press. At no time, she says, did she participate as a demonstrator nor verbally or physically threaten anyone. The officers, says Biren-Wright, arrested her without any warning. The arresting officer’s “degree of anger—he was clearly red-faced—was inappropriate,” she recalls. The police, says Biren-Wright, “were clearly targeting me, trying to keep me from recording the demonstration and their reactions.”
One officer, says Biren-Wright, “unnecessarily twisted my arm.” Another officer seized her camera and personal items. One of the officers put plastic cuffs on her wrists “so tight that it caused significant pain, swelling and bruising, and an injury that lasted for several weeks,” according to the complaint.
Biren-Wright’s 15-year-old daughter was shopping in the mall during the protest, but had reunited with her mother shortly before the arrests. Her daughter, says Biren-Wright, “came closer upon the arrest and I told the officer she was my daughter and a minor and would be alone.” The officer, says Biren-Wright, snapped, “You should have thought of that before.” At the processing center that police had previously set up at the mall, Biren-Wright told several officers that her daughter was alone in the mall and was from out of state. “None of them did anything to ensure her safety,” she says. The daughter, unsupervised, eventually found Rob Kall, OpEdNews editor, who drove her to the jail to take her mother’s keys and then drove her home, where she spent the night alone.
Outside the mall, counter-protestors shouted obscenities as those arrested boarded the police bus. “They were standing at the door to the bus,” says Biren-Wright, “and posed a safety issue to us since we were in handcuffs.”
The six who were arrested and Biren-Wright were initially taken to the 15th District jail. Richie Marini, the lone male arrested, was kept at the district jail. The six women were transferred to the jail at the Philadelphia Police headquarters, known by locals as the “Roundhouse,” where a nurse took each woman’s vital signs and asked if there were any injuries. “I showed him my wrist and thumb that were already red and swollen” from the restrictive handcuffs, says Biren-Wright. His response, she says, was “That doesn’t count.”
Biren-Wright, along with the other five women, was held for 14 hours. At 5 a.m., she says, they were released from the “Roundhouse” onto a dark and barren street—there were no taxis anywhere near—and locked out of the police station. Although the women had cell phones, they had not been allowed to call for rides while in the jail area. Outside, they called friends, but waited until help arrived. Marini was released from the district jail later that morning.
The only reason Biren-Wright’s pictures of the demonstration survived is because she had secretly removed the memory chip during her arrest. When the camera was finally returned, “all of the settings were messed up and the lens was not replaced properly.”
The Army closed the AEC at the end of the pilot program. It had claimed that because of increased enlistments nationwide, the Center was no longer needed. It never acknowledged that the protestors and the public reaction may have been a reason for the closing.
In an unrelated case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in October 2010 [Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle] that recording police activity in public places is protected by Constitutional guarantees. This month, the ACLU settled a case, for $48,500, in Pittsburgh when a University of Pittsburgh police officer arrested Elijah Matheny and charged him with felony violation of the state’s Wiretap Act for using a cell phone to record police activity. Matheny spent a night in jail following his arrest. [See: Matheny v. County of Allegheny, et al.] The ACLU charged that the district attorney’s office “had engaged in a pattern of erroneously advising law enforcement that audio taping police officers in public violates Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act.” Following the Third Circuit’s decision in the Kelly case, a conviction against Matheny is expected to be overturned.
The arrests in Philadelphia, Carlisle, and Pittsburgh underscore two major problems, both prevalent throughout the country. The first problem is a lack of understanding and respect for the Constitution by a large number, although not a majority, of police officers. For that reason, all police forces and district attorneys offices, from small isolated rural communities to the largest urban departments, need to have constant education about civil rights and Constitutional guarantees—and the penalties for violating those rights.
The second major problem is inherent within the mass media. Reporters need to know how and when to challenge authority to protect their own and the public’s rights. A camera crew from the PBS “Frontline” series was at the protest, but abruptly stopped recording the demonstration after Brower was arrested and either before or during Biren-Wright’s arrest. Rob Kall later said that a member of the “Frontline” crew told him the police informed them they would be arrested if they continued to film the demonstration.
Police threats, which violate Constitutional guarantees, place a “chilling effect” upon the media to observe and record actions by public officials. Even without a direct order by a public official, reporters may do what they perceive to be what others want them to do. The media, like police and public officials, also need constant education to know when police orders are lawful and when they are not. An order to move away from a scene may be lawful. An order to stop filming a scene upon threat of arrest is not.
In federal court, in the case of Biren v. City of Philadelphia, et al., these issues, and others, will be raised. But had there been an understanding of the Constitution by the police, the case would never have gotten to the point of a federal civil suit.
Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.
The British Police have apologized and agreed to pay compensation to the man who was arrested on his way to an anti-royal demonstration after he threatened the police with legal action.
Adam Moniz was heading to the Red Lion square in central London to take part in a peaceful and authorized demonstration organized by the anti-monarchy group Republic when he was arrested by London police on the day of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
After being arrested, the police took Moniz to a police cell holding him for “anticipated breach of peace” despite having a clear criminal record and no intention of committing any offence. After six hours when the royal wedding had finished, the police released him without any charge.
His arrest was one of several pre-crime arrests that the British police committed on the day of Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding. Human rights campaigners referred to the indiscriminate arrests as illegal.
In a bid to justify the Metropolitan Police’s behaviour, acting detective superintendent Mark Eley, in a letter to Moniz, said: “the policing of large scale public order events and demonstrations is frequently a challenging task for police officers. It requires a careful balance of the rights and freedoms of often conflicting interests.”
Furthermore, after Moniz threatened the British police with legal action, they agreed to pay him 5,000 pounds in compensation.