The normal men who built the occupation and the normal people who benefit from it
An opinion piece about Israel’s apartheid consciousness follows the article by Haggai Matar.
Poster for the film The Lab
It’s convenient to place all blame for the occupation on the extreme Zionist settlers. The painful reality, however, is that we all share responsibility.
By Haggai Matar, Ha’aretz
June 06, 2013
Uri Misgav claims that “those who lead the occupation and settlement enterprise” are a “small and determined avant-garde” of the religious Zionist settler movement that has magically succeeded in “imposing its will and values on a silent, confused and paralyzed majority” (“The post-Zionists,” Haaretz, May 31, 2013).
In other words, 46 years after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Misgav apparently thinks that the silent and innocent majority has simply not been paying attention to what’s happening around it for more than two-thirds of the country’s history. An odd majority, indeed.
Perhaps the silent majority might be forgiven its blindness. After all, it was busy. Three documentary films in recent years describe what it’s been busy with.
“The Lab” by Yotam Feldman follows former army officials and academics who became defense exporters, representing about 150,000 families in Israel who make their living directly from the arms industry. “The Gatekeepers” by Dror Moreh features former heads of the Shin Bet security service, who built their careers in the torture cellars. “The Law in These Parts” by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz introduces us to the jurists who laid the legal foundations for the expropriation of land and the separate legal systems for Jews and Arabs.
Almost all the men (because there are only men) in these films are secular. Many of them consider themselves humanists or members of the center-left and support territorial compromise. And all of them profit directly from the occupation.
They are not the only ones. In the same paper where Misgav’s column appeared, an article by Amira Hass also appeared about the plan to launder illegal construction, some of it on privately owned Palestinian land, in the settlement of Eli. Hass mentions the architect who prepared the construction plan, which is now in the approval stage at the Civil Administration: Yehoshua Shachar of Tel Aviv. He is not a settler, and as far as anyone knows, he is not a member of the religious-Zionist movement’s avant-garde gang. He’s just a man from Tel Aviv who is helping expand the settlements on Palestinian-owned land, who did not answer Haaretz’s questions.
Fairly close to Shachar’s office are the main offices of Israel’s largest banks. Every one of them, without exception, provides mortgages and makes a profit from construction on the stolen land in the West Bank. Nearby are the offices of the high-tech companies that support themselves by selling components used in equipment that controls the Palestinian population. Tel Aviv University, where pilots and Shin Bet personnel study and which engages in army-sponsored academic research in the territories, is there too.
To all these can be added the half-million Israelis who live in the settlements, many of them non-religious but looking for quality of life, who have been pushed to the colonialist suburbs because of the scandalously high housing prices in Israel proper. We can also mention all those building their homes from stone quarried in the West Bank in violation of international law, those who drink the water pumped from the mountain aquifer under the Palestinians’ feet, or those who buy wine from the vineyards on the outposts.
Quite a few people benefit from the captive market because of the restrictions imposed on Palestinians merchants, or the cheap labor of workers dependent on Israel for their livelihood. Indeed, the silent majority is too busy to pay attention to what the religious-settler avant-garde is doing out there, beyond the mountains of darkness.
Misgav’s narrative, which is characteristic of the Zionist left wing, ignores not only the evidence of the silent majority’s collaboration in the settlement enterprise, but also the fact that long before Lapid and Bennett made their pact, governments that were led by, or were partners with Labor (and of course Likud), including governments headed by Yitzhak Rabin, established settlements and encouraged Israelis to live in them. He mentions the parties “to the right of Hatnuah and Meretz” that fawned on the settlers. He does not mention the large public that elected them or that serve their policy in the army.
The story that places all the blame on the settlers helps shift blame and responsibility from the folly in which we are all partners, whether the source of that folly is in 1967 or 1948, in what Misgav calls a “promising point of departure” for the country. The story helps to ignore the resemblance between the settlements in the West Bank and the kibbutzim in the north, or isolated farms in the Negev. It’s a convenient, lulling story that describes a world where the majority just needs to wake up from fifty years of accursed sleep and reclaim the country for itself.
The story that acknowledges that we all profit from the occupation, more painful and terrible as it is, is not being told so that we can beat ourselves up: It is being told so that we can recognize the economic infrastructure on which our society’s foundations rest, so that those who truly wish to end the military control over thousands of subjects deprived of their rights will acknowledge the need to change this military-economic infrastructure from the ground up.
The writer is a journalist and blogger.
We may one day have ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza. With the Arabs of Israel, it will take much more. We need sincere reconciliation.
By Zvi Bar’el, Ha’aretz
April 17, 2013
The workers at the immaculate Jaffa butcher shop had their hands full on the eve of Independence Day. Packaged trays of kebab were being panic-bought as if the Iranian bomb was already on the way; dozens of veal and lamb skewers were piled up like arrows ready to be released; pieces of entrecote and chicken parts filled overflowing baskets on their way to the checkout.
As usual, there was someone among the dozens of Jews waiting in line who remembered to share the colorful saying, “This is Nakba Day for the sheep” [a reference to the Palestinians’ Nakba Day, when they protest the formation of Israel]. Someone else responded: “Never mind, the Arabs also deserve to be happy on Independence Day. Let the guy make some money until the Jewish butchers drop their prices.” A woman hugging a huge side of meat said with a sigh, “They make a pretty good living off of us,” adding, “The line here is longer than the line at Abulafia after Passover week,” referring to the popular Arab-owned bakery.
The Jaffa butcher is unlikely to be in line for the award honoring outstanding citizens that the Tel Aviv Municipality hands out on Independence Day, despite his leadership of the large institution contributing to Arab-Jewish coexistence. You don’t even need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of Arabs who have been awarded that honor in all the years of its existence. But why complain? After all, one of the Independence Day ceremony torch lighters was the president of Achva Academic College, Prof. Alean Al-Krenawi, a resident of Rahat. Also from that Bedouin city was the truck driver who ran down and killed six citizens near Nesher last week. Citizens? Arabs. The country breathed a sigh of relief.
Deep semantic and ideological controversy is generated by the question of whether Israel is an apartheid state. Some people see Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, and institutionalized discrimination between settlers and Palestinians, as proof of the existence of apartheid. That perception is wrong. The territories are under occupation, which by definition is discriminatory and oppressive. The solution to discrimination in the territories is not for the Palestinians to enjoy the same rights as Israeli citizens, as if they had been annexed to Israel; rather, it is freedom from occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, which will be founded on equal rights for all citizens.
Others see apartheid in the differences in the funding that Arab municipalities receive and the untenable gaps in education and income between Jews and Arabs. That perception legitimizes the concept of apartheid.
True apartheid is in our consciousness and nothing like the expression “peaceful coexistence with the Arabs in Israel” − as a number of the torch bearers hoped for in their statements, to describe this handicap of consciousness. After all, no one calls for peaceful coexistence with immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia or Europe, because peaceful coexistence is what we wish for with an enemy.
Last year, then Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar criticized the Nakba Day ceremony at Tel Aviv University: “This is a wrong, infuriating decision that hurts the public’s feelings,” he said. “There is no reason that campuses in Israel should be places for shows of hatred against Israel.”
All he was doing in this statement was protecting the consciousness of apartheid. The nakba terrifies Israel. We cannot forgive the Arabs for exiling themselves from Palestine, for destroying their own villages, for becoming refugees and for causing the cleansing of the War of Independence. Neither can we forgive them for the fact that many of them remained in Israel, destroying its aspiration to be a pure Jewish state, not only a state for Jews.
In contrast to an occupation that can end and unlink Israel from the occupied population, apartheid of the consciousness has become part of the Israeli-Jewish DNA. It germinated before the occupation, flourished during it, and will continue to do so even after the occupation ends someday. We may one day have “peaceful coexistence” with the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza. With the Arabs of Israel, it will take much more. We need sincere reconciliation.
“Apartheid cannot be reformed; it has to be eliminated,” Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme said, one week before he was assassinated. Equal funding or formal affirmative action will not uproot Israeli apartheid, nor will a joke about sheep at the butcher. Only reconciliation with the nakba.
The Lab by Yotam Feldman, documentary about Israel’s weapons and surveillance business which they market on Israeli experience of using the weapons and security systems. 50 second trailer.
To whom do Israelis owe their financial prosperity and the comfort of their lives? Rather than myths about the genius of the Jewish mind or the miracle of Israel’s economy, “The Lab” portrays a less discussed, more troubling truth. The Israeli military control of 3.75 million Palestinians has become in the past decade an economic bonanza. Since 9/11 dozens of countries are applying military force against civilian resistance and are in constant search for new methods and technologies in this form of war. The means used in military incursions in the West Bank, assassinations from the air in Gaza and 24 hour surveillance over the entire Palestinian population are aggressively exported worldwide. Military generals become successful contractors and Israel has become the worlds’ fourth largest exporter of arms and military know-how. A new form of high-tech war has developed through testing in the Palestinian laboratory. It is waged by engineers and technicians rather than field generals and most of its lethal actions are executed from a distance. This new form of war was brought to perfection in the 2009 Gaza incursion in which at least 1,200 Palestinians and 11 Israelis were killed. In the same year, Israel show-cased the newly tested technologies and the income for the security industry hit an all-time high.
Interview with Yotam Feldman Audio, English.
The Law in These Parts Documentary on the men who made the laws of occupation written and directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz. It has won many awards since in was released in 2011 including Best Documentaryat the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival and the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Its promotional material asks:
“Can a modern democracy impose a prolonged military occupation on another people while retaining its core democratic values?
Since Israel conquered the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, the military has imposed thousands of orders and laws, established military courts, sentenced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, enabled half a million Israeli “settlers” to move to the Occupied Territories and developed a system of long-term jurisdiction by an occupying army that is unique in the entire world.
The men entrusted with creating this new legal framework were the members of Israel’s military legal corps. Responding to a constantly changing reality, these legal professionals have faced (and continue to face) complex judicial and moral dilemmas in order to develop and uphold a system of long-term military “rule by law” of an occupied population, all under the supervision of Israel’s Supreme Court, and, according to Israel, in complete accordance with international law.”