This week, three things related to Israel made my jaw drop:
1) It turned out that centrist Israeli lawmaker (deputy minister and former Ambassador to the US) Michael Oren had not merely opined that the Tamimi family was “not a real family”, but that he had initiated a parliamentary committee investigation into this matter, already 2 years ago.
2) Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers were expelled from Israel’s parliament plenum during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech, for lifting signs of protest.Their expulsion took about 10 seconds from the moment they lifted signs, and the rest of the crowd cheered.
3) The publication by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman (in The New York Times), of how Israel in the 1980s was so bent on assassinating Yasser Arafat, that it was willing to bomb a crowded stadium in Beirut where he was to speak, willing to down commercial airliners if he was aboard, and willing to have Israeli journalists killed (including Uri Avnery) as collateral, if they could only provide a trail to him when meeting the Palestinian leader.
And that’s just in one week. Where do you even start, right? Let’s start with Michael Oren.
Michael Oren and the Tamimi family
Haaretz revealed that Oren had been heading an inquiry by a Knesset subcommittee two years ago, into whether the Tamimis were a “real family”. The inquiry “didn’t reach unequivocal conclusions,” and was prompted by suspicions that the family from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was “not genuine, and was specially put together for propaganda” purposes by the Palestinians, a statement issued by Oren’s office said. “The incident with the Tamimi family is simply exploitation of children,” the statement added.
The final assessment of the investigation was that it “apparently is a family, but slowly, [other] children who fit the profile they sought were ‘annexed’ to it,” a spokeswoman for Oren told Haaretz. Nevertheless, she added, “there was no unequivocal conclusion on the matter.”
Oren told Haaretz that the subcommittee also investigated many other aspects of “the Tamimi phenomenon. For instance, there was a boy who ostensibly belonged to the family but has rather disappeared. He would come to demonstrations one day with a cast on his right hand and the next day with a cast on his left or no cast.”
He said the committee looked into whether “members of the family were chosen for their appearance” – blond, blue-eyed and light-skinned. “Also clothing. A real costume. American dress in every respect, not Palestinian, with backward baseball caps. Even Europeans don’t wear backward baseball caps. It was all ready; after a provocation or a brawl the posters would come out,” he said. “It was all prepared. It’s what’s known as Pallywood.”
Alright, that’s quite a mouthful there.
Once again, it’s hard to know where to begin. But Oren provides us with a suggestion – the “fake cast” allegation. Yesterday, he posted on social media (Facebook and Twitter) the following (in Hebrew):
“A boy of 12 takes a photo with a cast on the right arm, the next day with a cast on left arm. You tell me if it’s not funded and directed? The Tamimi family is part of the “Pallywood” industry, which sends children to confront IDF soldiers in order to cause PR damage to Israel, for money”.
As proof for his allegation, Oren posted a dual photo of the Tamimis. Yet it was obvious for anyone with a few brain cells, that the photo was an identical mirror image. When comments about glaring idiocy started filling the thread, Oren took down the photo, but preserved the text (the photo has been preserved by others, I have posted the screengrab on my Facebook wall).
Oren is now the laughing stock of Israel and Palestine:
Journalist John Brown posted a meme with the famous The Shining twin girls, both bearing Oren’s face. They say, in Hebrew, “Is it a mirror image?” – “No, I think we’re twins”.
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man asks in +972 Magazine, whether Oren is a “real person”. He joked that “For the past two years, +972 Magazine has been conducting a secret investigation into whether Michael Oren, Israel’s alleged former ambassador to the United States, is “a real person” or just an actor playing a character invented by Israel’s hasbara agencies. The investigation did not reach any unequivocal conclusions.”
Ahed’s father, Bassem, is laughing his socks off. “How did such a fool get to be your ambassador to the United States?” he asked. “How does the State of Israel allow such a thing? If that’s your elite, I’m not sure how you manage to beat us.”
Damn right, Bassem. I’m sure your daughter Ahed and your wife Nariman will hear about this, even though they are in prison. You have to have something to laugh about, and Oren is the clown of the week. And he’s worried about PR damage to Israel? He’s a master at creating it!
I don’t need to waste time on elucidating more of Oren’s racist talk about the Tamimi’s “appearance”, that they wear “American clothes” and that they wear “backward baseball caps” which “even Europeans” supposedly wouldn’t do… It’s so moronic, it speaks volumes for itself.
But it’s not all laughs. These people get to keep their seats. People like Michael Oren – or lawmaker Oren Hazan, who calls relatives of Palestinian prisoners “beasts”, “dogs” and “human scum”, who calls for executing Palestinian family members of one who killed Jewish settlers. As Ravit Hecht noted in Haaretz, Member of Knesset Hazan freely curses and defiles the Knesset with utterances like “I’ll kick you,” and “If you don’t have money for a flight, I’ll buy you a ticket we’ll throw you out of here” – which he yelled at Palestinian Member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka.
And this brings us to point 2:
The expulsion of Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers from Israeli Knesset
Ravit Hecht’s piece in Haaretz was titled, “Removal of Arab Lawmakers During Pence’s Speech: A Sad Moment for Israeli Democracy – The brutal removal of Arab MKs to the applause from the remaining lawmakers symbolizes the removal of 20 percent of the population living here from the circle of citizens”. Hecht writes:
“What an achievement, what a pleasure: The Knesset is rid of Arabs. This is the essence of Israel, its true face in the harsh sunlight of the Middle East. Joint List lawmakers get thrown out of the plenum because of a nonviolent and not especially rude protest. The audience’s enthusiasm is particularly sad.”
Odeh Bisharat, also in Haaretz, was even stronger: “With Pence Visiting, It Took 10 Seconds and the Knesset Was Empty of Arabs – Even the Israeli president tossed statesmanship aside and enthusiastically applauded the disgraceful scene”, his piece was titled.
He opined that Pence “was likely enthralled by its prowess; in just 10 seconds, “our forces” had overpowered “the enemy” and the Knesset was cleared of Arabs and their Jewish supporters.”
Even NBC diplomatic correspondent Andrea Mitchell remarked strongly: “Can you imagine Capitol Police dragging members of the congressional black caucus off the House floor?”
For those who still believe in the myth of “Israeli democracy”, I suppose that horrid moment could have brought associations to the scene in Star Wars, where the supposedly ‘liberal’ Chancellor Palpatine, who is the Dark Sith Lord, takes over the Republic, reforming it into the “1st Galactic Empire”, followed by roaring ovations from the galactic politicians. That’s when Padmé Amidala says to her aide: “So this is how liberty dies – with thunderous applause”.
Perhaps it is better to say, in the Israeli case at hand, that this is how the illusion of liberty dies, and Israeli Apartheid comes out to full daylight.
And then we are sent back to history, by Ronen Bergman’s account of Israeli barbarism in early 1980’s.
Israeli state terrorism in 1980’s
Israeli Journalist Ronen Bergman’s account of what went on in early 1980’s when Israel was bent on assassinating Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has come out in The New York Times. It’s a long and important read, it just takes a while to reach the horrid details. Haaretz has cut to the chase in an editorial:
“Blowing up commercial airliners carrying wounded Palestinians, bombing Beirut’s stadium and approving the killing of Israeli journalists: Book by Israeli journalist reveals history of assassination attempts against Yasser Arafat by Ariel Sharon and band of special agents he set up”.
Bergman explains in detail, how these things almost happened, but were averted, almost by miracle, by a last- minute hesitation of various commanders. Nonetheless the essential point of it (which I believe Bergman does not hasten to accentuate), is that these were actual planned operations, some of them set in motion. Once, a private aircraft Arafat was believed to have boarded was almost downed over the Mediterranean. It was not Arafat, but rather his brother, whom the Mossad mistook to be Arafat; and aboard the plane were 30 wounded Palestinian children who had survived the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. Sharon would have massacred them twice, that is.
Israeli fighter jets were scrambled several times in 1982-3, also in an effort to down commercial airliners Arafat was believed to be on. Locations over the Mediterranean were selected, where depth would make a salvage operation very hard, reducing to a minimum the danger of Israeli culpability being revealed. One wonders whether another Arafat look-alike may have been on one of those, and what would have happened if there was just a bit less hesitation from the operative commanders.
‘Kill them all’
Bergman notes how in 1979, in response to a Palestinian terror attack launched from Lebanon against an Israeli family in northern Israel, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan said “kill them all”, referring to PLO members in Lebanon. Eitan set up a clandestine assassination force headed by Meir Dagan, the man who would go on to head Israel’s Mossad, a force audaciously and cynically called the “Front for the Liberation of Lebanon From Foreigners.” The force, which ran “almost entirely without the authorization or knowledge” of the defense establishment or the government, according to Bergman, also had a plan to detonate a bomb in the Beirut stadium where the Palestinian leadership was planning an event. Nonetheless Prime Minister Begin reportedly knew of the plan, and decided eventually to nix it, although Sharon was poised to go ahead.
And then Sharon of course pushed for the 1982 invasion called “Peace of Galilee”, which turned out to be the devastation of Lebanon – all in order to foil a “Palestinian peace offensive”, as military analyst Avner Yaniv phrased it. At the time the PLO was moving dangerously close to the international consensus regarding the peaceful solution to the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’, which posed the ‘danger’ of leading to a Palestinian state on 22% of historical Palestine. Sharon would not have it. He wanted Palestinians chased away to Jordan to make it a ‘Palestinian state’, hence forcing any Palestinian claims to areas within Israel’s control to be relinquished. Sharon believed that assassinating Arafat was the key to destroying the Palestinian leadership.
Journalists as ‘collateral’
In another of the attempts to assassinate Arafat, an Israeli assassination team trailed an Israeli journalist team that including Uri Avnery, Anat Saragusti and Sarit Yishai Levy, who had plans to meet Arafat. Anat Saragusti responded to Bergman’s report in disbelief on her Facebook status (Hebrew):
“When faced with the dilemma of whether his liquidation justifies the deaths of three Israeli journalists, the decision was yes. I reiterate: the assassination of Arafat in Beirut in 1982 justified the deaths of three Israeli journalists. […]Arafat escaped from the surveillance and our lives were saved. Creepy.”
Oh, it’s creepy indeed. All this is so creepy.
And I have to ask you, Israel: are you for real? I mean, I know you’re considered a state, but are you real? Even the anagram of your name suggests you are – ‘IS-REAL’ – but really? My jaw is dropping. Despite all that I’ve read and seen before, I still can’t believe it. It’s so surreal.
On the one hand I think you’re somehow real, but on the other hand a lot suggests you’re not. I mean, you have no fully delineated borders. They are just fluid and temporary – they are “wherever the IDF reaches” as Ben Gurion once said. You don’t have a constitution, but OK, some other democracies lack one. Then when you attempt to write one in gradually, through ‘basic laws’, some of these are in flagrant violation of international law. Like the one on Jerusalem, claiming it to be the ‘united capital’.
Then you say you’re a democracy – but a Jewish democracy. That actually ends up meaning that you’re a democracy for Jews – and that’s not a democracy, sorry. Then it turns out there are no actually Israeli nationals – because there’s no Israeli nationality. Israeli nationals don’t exist – only Jewish nationals who are the only ones who enjoy national rights in Israel. For real?
Yes, this is the “Jewish state”. I’m rubbing my eyes and I can’t believe it. Maybe I’m still waking up from all those Zionist dreams I was indoctrinated with. “If you will it, it is no dream”, said Herzl.
But you know what, it is a dream. You think that construct can be a real democratic state? That you can keep this barbarism, this murderous Apartheid going in the name of ‘democracy’, ‘enlightenment’ and ‘liberty’? The horrors mentioned above are not just aberrations. They are logical consequences of nationalist madness. These people are leaders. It has been going on since the start, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. This is just awful. Let’s wake up. We can stop this. And if we can’t, someone’s got to.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.