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Reporting on the conflict in the Middle East

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Uri Avnery created a sensation when he crossed the lines during the battle of Beirut and met Yassir Arafat on July 3, 1982. Several Israeli cabinet ministers called for Avnery's indictment for high treason, while peace activists hailed the meeting as a historical breakthrough. It was the culmination of an effort started by Avnery many years earlier. A former member of the Irgun underground, he joined Ha'aretz newspaper in 1949, quitting a year later to edit the magazine Haolam Hazeh magazine, which proved to be a thorn in the flesh to a number of Israeli governments. Avnery was ambushed and both his hands broken in 1953 and escaped an assassination bid in 1975. He became a member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in 1969 at the head of a party that took its name from his magazine.

ABOUT THE COLUMNS – These columns will be posted each week as articles ready for printing as inserts into an 8.5" by 11" binder. The cover (above) may be downloaded for printing as a binder insert.
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NEW – 52. December 25, 2004
A wreath for Blair
“The curious incident is the barking of the dog,” Sherlock Holmes remarked.
“But the dog did not bark!” exclaimed Dr. Watson.
“That is the curious incident!”
This week’s curious incident concerns the wreath of Tony Blair. The wreath that he did not lay on the grave of Yasser Arafat. Elementary, dear Watson.
Blair did go to the graveside. But he omitted the natural and customary thing: laying a wreath. Neither did he bow. He just tilted his head a few centimeters and hastened to get away..

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NEW – 51. December 18, 2004
The mountain and the mouse
Ariel Sharon’s speech at the “Herzliya Conference”, an annual gathering of Israel’s financial, political and academic aristocracy, proved again his wondrous ability to conjure up an imaginary world and divert attention away from the real one. Like every successful con-man, he knows that the audience desperately wants to believe good tidings and will be happy to ignore bad ones. It was an optimistic message, as the bewitched commentators proclaimed. According to him, we are on our way to paradise, 2005 will be a year of tremendous progress in all fields and all our problems will be solved.
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NEW – 50. December 11, 2004
The boss has gone crazy
When the fruit sellers at the Tel Aviv market shout “the boss has gone crazy!” they mean that they are selling their merchandise at ridiculously low prices. In the world’s capitals, a similar cry is now being heard: “The boss has gone crazy!” - but it is not about the price of tomatoes. It refers to the new situation, after the reelection of George W. Bush for four more years. In many places, Bush is seen as a crazy cowboy, the kind who rides into town shooting in all directions. He has attacked Afghanistan. He has attacked Iraq. His neocon handlers want to attack Syria and Iran in the next phase. They want to establish subservient regimes everywhere (“promoting democracy in the Middle East”), station permanent American garrisons in the region and control the world’s oil market, and - last but not least - help Ariel Sharon to fulfil his plans. Now, in his second term of office, Bush can do pretty much as he pleases.
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NEW – 49. December 4, 2004
Widow of opportunity?
My immediate reaction to Marwan Barghouti’s registration as a candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority was positive. First of all, I am always in favor of the underdog. And who could be more of an underdog than a prisoner? Second, I respect the man. I have met him at planning meetings for joint peace actions. I have demonstrated for him in Tel-Aviv and been forcibly evicted from the court building, with a rightist lynch mob howling in the background. Third, the Marwan Barghouti candidacy puts the fate of the Palestinian prisoners on the agenda - those prisoners of war who are treated like common criminals by Israel. Fourth, his candidacy (if he exercises it) will set the stage for a scene unprecedented in the Arab world: an election where the victory of one candidate is no assured in advance. An Abu Mazen-Marwan Barghouti confrontation would be a real fight.
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NEW – 48. November 27, 2004
“Give me some credit”
Give me some credit!” the new Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, cried out at the Labor Party convention in February 1965, addressing David Ben-Gurion. From the moment he resigned, Ben-Gurion started to undermine his successor. Eshkol, who until then had only dealt with finances, looked pale and ineffectual next to his monumental predecessor, the Father of the State, the leader in two wars. Eshkol meant his words quite literally. He said: “Ben-Gurion, I shall use the language of a treasurer: Give me some credit! That’s all I ask, for one term in office, four years at most!”
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NEW – 47. November 20, 2004
Who's next?
George W. Bush is a product of the Wild West myth. He sees himself as the fast-drawing sheriff who kills the bad guys and maintains order in town. But in fact he is much more like another stock figure of the Westerns: the top-hatted vendor of the patent medicine which heals everything: tooth-ache and belly-ache, cholera and impotence, gunshot wounds and heart attacks. Bush’s patent medicine is called “democracy”. Democracy will heal all the diseases of the Middle East and the entire world. If only the Muslim nations would buy his little flask, all problems would be solved, and foremost among them the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And since Israel is already an exemplary democracy, led by that great democrat, Ariel Sharon, all that is needed now is to impose democracy on the Palestinians. This means free elections for president and parliament.
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NEW – 46. November 13, 2004
Rejoice not . . .
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him.” This biblical injunction (Proverbs 24:17) is one of the most profound Jewish moral tenets.  In this connection, Israel is very far from being a “Jewish State”, as it likes to define itself. The disgusting filth poured out over Yasser Arafat during the last few days in practically all the Israeli media makes one ashamed to be an Israeli.
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NEW – 45. November 6, 2004
A man and his people
Wherever he may be buried when he passes away, the day will come when his remains will be reinterred by a free Palestinian government in the holy shrines in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat is one of the generation of great leaders who arose after World War II. The stature of a leader is not simply determined by the size of his achievements, but also by the size of the obstacles he had to overcome. In this respect, Arafat has no competitor in the world: no leader of our generation has been called upon to face such cruel tests and to cope with such adversities as he.
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NEW – 44. October 30, 2004
The importance of being relevant
I remember standing on the roof of a warehouse near Beirut harbor and observing the armed and uniformed PLO fighters, headed by Yasser Arafat, getting on the ships that took them westwards. “End of the Arafat era!” rejoiced the newspapers in Israel the next day. “Arafat is politically a dead horse!” said the radio commentators. “Thank God we are rid of him once and for all!” TV talk-show hosts announced. When I came back to Tel-Aviv, I was invited to a radio debate. For the sake of balance, a right-wing journalist was also invited. It was Tommy Lapid, the present Minister of Justice. Before entering the studio, we chatted. I wonder if he remembers now what I told him then: “You have buried him a hundred times, and you a going to bury him a hundred times more.
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42. October 16, 2004
Thank you, Dubby
What really is important is not what he said or why he said it, but the world-view that animates him. By now, everybody has had a go at analyzing the interview with Dov (“Dubby”) Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s most intimate confidant. But there is precious little to analyze. His statement is crystal clear: the “redeployment plan” was designed to “freeze” the peace process for decades, to put all peace plans “in formaldehyde”, to put an end to the possibility of a Palestinian state, once and for all. A dozen small settlements will be dismantled in order to keep practically all the 250,000 West Bank settlers where they are. Israel will “concede” the Gaza Strip, which constitutes 1.3% of pre-1948 Palestine, in order to take permanent possession of the West Bank, which is 16 times larger. The Gaza Strip will be cut off from the world on land, by sea and in the air, as will the seven or eight similar Palestinian enclaves that will come into being on the West Bank.
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41. October 9, 2004
Don't believe a word
When Ariel Sharon announced his plan for “unilateral disengagement”, the media reported that the Peace Now movement was preparing a big public campaign in support. The Prime Minister’s office asked them to desist, fearing that such a campaign would cause the extreme right to oppose it. Peace Now was not the only “leftist” group that waxed enthusiastic about the plan. The chiefs of the Labor Party declared that it was really their own plan and that, therefore, it was their duty to join the government and help Sharon to implement it.
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40. October 2, 2004
Eggs in one basket
About a hundred years ago, the Russian Czar’s secret police cobbled together a document they called the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The “authors” were not particularly original - they took a satire, written decades earlier about Napoleon III’s ambitions for world domination, and substituted Jewish rabbis for the French emperor. According to the revised document, the Jews are plotting to control the world, and the tentacles of this conspiracy reach everywhere. When this fabrication was composed, the scenario was quite outlandish. In mighty Russia, which at that time included a great part of Poland, Jews had hardly any influence at all. In the German Reich, Jews were indeed prominent in several fields - such as banking, commerce and the press - but they were remote from the real centers of power.
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39. September 25, 2004
A nation? What nation?
It sounds like a joke, but it is quite serious. The government of Israel does not recognize the Israeli nation. It says that there is no such thing. Could you imagine the French government denying the existence of the French Nation? Or the government of the United States of America not recognizing the (US) American nation? But then, Israel is the land of unlimited possibilities. Every person in Israel is recorded in the Interior Ministry’s “registry of inhabitants”. The registration includes the item “nation”. This entry also appears on the Identity Card that every person in Israel is legally obliged to carry with them at all times or risk criminal prosecution.
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38. September 18, 2004
The Temple Mount Bombers
The Security Service is haunted by a terrible fear: that another Israeli Prime Minister will be assassinated. The extreme right-wing, which does not hide its admiration for Yigal Amir and his deed, harbors some who dream of a similar action. After all, if Amir succeeded in murdering the Oslo process, why shouldn’t another Amir succeed in murdering the process of dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip? But the Security Service also entertains an even greater fear: that a Jewish terror group will bomb the mosques on the Temple Mount.
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37. September 11, 2004
'God wills it'
Two shocking manifestos were published this week. Both call for comment. One of them declares that dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip is a “crime against humanity”. It does not mention that they were set up on the land reserves of a million Palestinians crowded in the tiny strip, and rob them of their scarce water. Their removal, it says, is an “expression of tyranny, evil and arbitrariness”. Officers and soldiers are called upon not to take part in this “ethnic cleansing”. This manifesto is signed by the father and brother of Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as Meir Har-Zion, the favorite pupil of Ariel Sharon, who became famous in the 1950s for slitting the throats of several innocent Beduins with his own hands in revenge for the killing of his sister. Two former Directors General of the Prime Minister’s office also signed. Most of the signatories are not religious.
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36. September 4, 2004
How are you, Non-violence?
At the mass meeting with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, in Abu-Dis, I observed the faces of the participants. While Gandhi was preaching non-violence, I imagined a debate between two young Palestinians in the audience. Yussuf: “He is right. The armed intifada has failed.” Hassan: “On the contrary. Without the actions of the martyrs, the world would have forgotten us long ago.”
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35. August 28, 2004
An officer in court
When I came out of the beautiful Supreme Court building, I was feeling depressed. I had listened for hours to proceedings on a number of applications concerning the separation wall. I was especially interested in the part of the wall that is threatening to ruin the lives of the residents of a-Ram. There, it will be remembered, the planned wall runs the full length of the Jerusalem-Ramallah road, which passes through a-Ram. The strip along the middle of the road will be displaced by an 8-meter high concrete wall that will cut off most of the town’s inhabitants from their work places, schools, hospitals and even cemetery.
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33. August 14, 2004
A drought in Texas
Once upon a time, an assistant to Levy Eshkol, our late Prime Minister, rushed up to him and cried: “Levy, a disaster! A drought has set in!”
“Where?” the Prime Minister asked anxiously, “in Texas?”
“No, here in Israel!” the man replied.
“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” Eshkol said dismissively.
Right from the beginning, the State of Israel has been critically affected by events in the United States. “If America sneezes, Israel catches cold,” is the local version of the universal saying. This is particularly true in the run-up to American elections. They can be as important for Israel as our own, since the occupant of the White House can influence the fate of Israel in many significant ways. But they have an additional significance: the months before the American elections are a kind of open season for Israel.

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32. August 7 2004
Some order in the mess
Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan has already made a mess on all levels. It has sparked a continuing cabinet crisis, an upheaval in several parties, a disorientation of public opinion, confusion in the security establishment and armed confrontations between Palestinian organizations. The Israeli peace movement is mixed up like everybody else. Some support Sharon because of the plan and even want to join his government, others denounce Sharon and the plan furiously. Let’s try to make some sense of this mess.
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31. July 31 2004
How the virgin became a whore
This is a TV series about Russia. But it could have been about Israel. Or about the United States. It is entitled “The Oligarchs” and is now being screened on Israeli television. Some of its episodes are simply unbelievable – or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses’ mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia. The “oligarchs” are a tiny group of entrepreneurs who exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews.
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30. July 24 2004
The skin of the bear
I am writing this with an aching heart. I have postponed writing it as long as I could. In Jewish tradition, there is a searing phrase: “The Temple was not destroyed but for gratuitous hatred.” It sums up the events in beleaguered Jerusalem, in the year 70 AD, when the town was surrounded by the Roman legions. While Titus’ soldiers were maintaining the siege and the population was beginning to starve, inside the town ferocious battles took place between various factions of zealots, who killed each other and burnt each other’s last stores of wheat..Something like this is now taking place in the Palestinian territories. While the occupation forces are tightening the siege and carrying out “targeted killings”, battles between the Palestinians themselves have broken out, with militants shooting at each other, targeting leaders and burning headquarters.
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29. July 17 2004
Marie and the ghosts
Sometimes a trivial episode throws a revealing light on a grave public disease. A classic example: the Captain of Koepenick. On the face of it, it was a minor criminal incident: in 1906, a shoemaker named Wilhelm Voigt was released from prison, after serving a sentence for forgery. To get work he needed a passport, which, as a former convict, he could not get. So he went to a junk shop and bought the uniform of an army captain, commandeered some soldiers in the street, took them to Koepenick, a Berlin suburb, arrested the mayor and confiscated the blank passports. Since he was well-known to the police, he was soon arrested. All Europe laughed at this exposure of the situation in Germany, where anyone wearing a uniform was a king and every army officer a demigod.
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28. July 10 2004
There are judges in the Hague
One of the Israeli newspapers, Haaretz, put the two events on the front page: the 100th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement, and the judgement of the International Court of Justice, which declared the Israeli Separation Wall illegal. This coincidence may seem fortuitous. What connection could there possibly be between a historical anniversary and the latest topical event? But there is a connection. It is expressed in one sentence written by Herzl in Der Judenstaat, the book that became the cornerstone of Zionism.
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27. July 3 2004
Justice, gas and tears
In the silence of the courtroom, there was an audible gasp of surprise and shock when Supreme Justice Aharon Barak, reading the court’s decision, reached the words: “The military commander did not use his discretion in a proportional way, as required.” At that moment the veteran peace activists who filled the room realized that they had won. Four days before, we could not have dreamt of that. We were far from the sterile silence of the beautiful Supreme Court building: a distance of a few kilometers geographically, a distance of light-years mentally. At that time we were running through clouds of tear gas, choking and coughing, in the center of A-Ram.
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26. June 26 2004
‘The starling went to the raven’
Tn old, worn-out whore who waits in vain for a man to seek her favors is a pitiful sight indeed. The Israeli Labor Party is in this pathetic position, but it is difficult to feel any pity for it. For months now, the party has been waiting at the door of the Sharon government, hoping to be invited in at any moment. From time to time Sharon opens the door, shoots her a contemptuous look and slams the door shut in her face. This week it happened again, for the nth time. Usually Shimon Peres is blamed for this situation. Quite rightly, of course. Peres is longing for the position of Foreign Minister the way a man dying of thirst in the desert longs for water.
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25. June 20 2004
Irreversible mental damage
Two weeks ago, the international community made a shocking declaration. Giving in to a demand by George Bush, the “Quartet” accepted the “Revised Disengagement Plan” of Ariel Sharon. This means that the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States confirmed this document. I wonder if any one of the honorable diplomats has read the document with their own eyes. In the first paragraph of the “plan”, the following words appear: “Israel has come to the conclusion that at present, there is no Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to make progress on a bilateral peace process.”
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24. June 13 2004
The nightmare comes true
I thought it was terrible. I was wrong. It is far, far worse! – These words sum up my feelings at that moment. I was standing on a hill overlooking the infamous Kalandia checkpoint. Below me was a narrow road, packed with Palestinians in the blazing sun, 30 degrees centigrade in the shade (but there was no shade) trudging towards the checkpoint. Very soon this road will be transformed. It will be widened to three lanes and be reserved for Israelis: on both sides of it, 8-meter high walls will spring up. It will allow the settlers of the Jordan valley to reach Tel-Aviv in about an hour. The Palestinians living on either side will be cut off from each other.
This is a small part of the new reality that is rapidly being created on the West Bank and that is changing the country we knew and loved beyond recognition.

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23. June 5 2004
To drink from the sea of Gaza
Perhaps Abe Lincoln was right that you can’t fool all the people all the time, but a lot of people can surely be fooled for a long, long time. Just look at Ariel Sharon. From the start, the “Disengagement Plan” was an exercise in deceit. But the world is eager to be deceived. The world’s statesmen take it seriously, it causes violent storms in Israel, the media have a ball. All this for a plan that has neither hands nor feet. So what is the purpose of all this mayhem? Cynics might say: the mayhem itself. It puts Sharon in center stage where he can continue to play the master of events. Now the commotion has reached a climax. The main aim of the exercise is to satisfy George Bush.
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NEW – 22. May 29 2004
Tommy's granny
Sometimes a person “buys his world in one moment,” as the ancient Hebrew saying goes. This was done by the Minister of Justice, Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid, when he uttered the words: “This old woman reminds me of my grandmother!” This old woman, an inhabitant of the Rafah refugee camp whose house was demolished by the Israeli army, was immortalized by the camera while rummaging through the ruins of her home in a desperate search for her medicine. Two days later, journalists found her at the same place, still looking for her medicine under the debris.
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21. May 22 2004
The rape of Rafah
The immense might of the Israeli army, assembled from all over the country, has attacked a small Palestinian township on the margin of the destitute Gaza Strip. Palestinians, both fighters and civilians, are being killed by the dozen, homes are being destroyed wholesale, the sight of the fleeing population bring back memories of 1948. All this – for what?
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20. May 15 2004
Busharon: The countdown
The strange creature named the Busharon is in serious trouble. The front half of this animal – George W. Bush – is having trouble with nude photos. Not only those of the hapless Iraqi prisoners, with the exuberant female soldier pointing at their genitals, but also of Bush himself, whose nakedness was exposed for all to see. The savior of the Iraqi people from a cruel tyrant, the gallant leader bestowing democracy on Mesopotamia, the representative of Western civilization fighting against barbarism – has himself been exposed as a cruel barbarian.
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19. May 4 2004
The Golem turns on his creator
In Jewish legend, the Golem was a man-made creature endowed with enormous strength. Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, also know as the Maharal, created him of clay and gave him life by putting a piece of paper with the secret name of God under his tongue. The Golem helped the Jews defend themselves against anti-Semitic rioters, but one day he turned against his creator. He sowed ruin and destruction, until, at the last moment, the rabbi succeeded in extracting the piece of paper from his mouth. The Golem turned back into a heap of clay.
Ariel Sharon is not a rabbi and the Kabbalah is a closed book to him. But he has created a Golem: the settlement movement in the occupied territories.

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18. May 1 2004
Living in a bubble
A few days ago, the State of Israel celebrated its 56th anniversary according to the Hebrew (lunar) calendar. A chance to escape from reality for a day, at a time when the whole country was braced for suicide-bombings to avenge the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abd-al-Aziz al-Rantissi. A day of nostalgia for the Israel of the early years, the years of innocence and youth. There were speeches, spectacles, fireworks. The solemn voice of Amikam Gurewitz recited the memorial prayer for the fallen soldiers of all our wars in decades-old tradition. Bereaved parents relive their pain. Groups of soldiers, male and female, exchange flags. Boys and girls dance the old and half-forgotten folk dances. The media full of the heroic deeds of our soldiers facing a cruel enemy, the sacrifices of the pioneers, the selfless idealism of the founders. A lot of speeches about democracy and the hope for peace.
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17. April 24 2004
Vanunu: The terrible secret
In the darkness of a cinema, a woman’s voice: “Hey! Take your hands off! Not you! YOU!” This old joke illustrates the American policy regarding nuclear armaments in the Middle East. “Hey, you there, Iraq and Iran and Libya, stop it! Not YOU, Israel!” The danger of nuclear arms was the main pretext for the invasion of Iraq. Iran is threatened in order to compel it to stop its nuclear efforts. Libya has surrendered and is dismantling its nuclear installations. So what about Israel? This week it became clear that the Americans are full partners in the creation of Israel’s “nuclear option”. How was this exposed? With the help of Mordecai Vanunu, of course."
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16. April 17 2004
Sharon’s skin and Bush’s spots
Question: Is the “Unilateral Disengagement” plan, which was so dramatically endorsed this week by President Bush, a bluff?
Answer: Yes and No. If Ariel Sharon can avoid implementing it, he certainly will. He will implement it only if he has no alternative. The written plan says that it will be implemented “by the end of 2005” – and by then the situation in this country and in the Middle East as a whole may be changed beyond recognition."

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15. April 10 2004
Bitter Rice: The March of Folly (2)
The following passage may look familiar: “On the fourth day of the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon, I crossed the border at a lonely spot near Metulla and looked for the front, which had already reached the outskirts of Sidon. I was driving my private car, accompanied by a woman photographer. We passed a dozen Shiite villages and were received everywhere with great joy. We extracted ourselves only with difficulty from hundreds of villagers, each one insisting that we have coffee at their home. On the previous days, they had showered the Israeli soldiers with rice. A few months later I joined an army convoy going in the opposite direction, from Sidon to Metulla. The soldiers were now wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, many were on the verge of panic."
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14. April 3 2004
A letter to President Arafat
I write these lines in order to protest against a statement that I cannot ignore. In the weekly Palestinian paper, The Jerusalem Times, there appeared on March 26 a short item reporting that you have viewed the controversial film of Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”. Afterwards your advisor and close assistant, Nabil Abu-Rudeina, stated that you found the film “moving and historical”. Abu-Rudeina added that “the Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.” If the statement had not appeared in a Palestinian paper, I would have believed that it was invented by Ariel Sharon’s propaganda machine. It is hard to imagine a sentence more capable of hurting the Palestinian cause.
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13. March 27 2004
Three generals, one martyr
Five hundred black- and white-bearded Hamas members were sitting opposite me. Venerable sheikhs and young people. On the side, some rows were occupied by women. I was standing on the stage, talking in Hebrew, with the crossed flags of Israel and Palestine on my lapel.
As I have recounted already several times, it happened like this: at the end of 1992, the new Prime Minister, Yitzhaq Rabin, expelled 415 Islamic activists – mostly Hamas members – to the Lebanese border area. In protest, we put up tents opposite the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

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12. March 20 2004
Bravo amigos
A Prime Minister is waging war. The great majority of the people oppose the war. The majority vote for the Prime Minister. Absurd? Well, that was the situation in Spain. It also applies, more or less, in Israel. But here the similarity ends. The Spanish people have thrown their Prime Minister out. The Israeli people go on supporting their Prime Minister. The Spaniards, in their innocence, believe that if a Prime Minister does the opposite of what the great majority of the people want, he has to go. They think that this is what democracy is all about. In Israel, such a thing is unthinkable.
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11. March 13 2004
The Palestinian Romeo
Arna Mer was a tempestuous and exciting woman. She was the daughter of a professor of medicine, who had already become a legend in his own lifetime. As a young woman she joined the legendary Palmakh fighters of the underground army, and since then the Keffiyah affected by them became her trade-mark. After the 1948 war she joined the Communist party, then the most hated group in Israel, and married an Arab party functionary. Her two well-known sons, Juliano and Spartak, bear revolutionary names.
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10. March 6 2004
O Tannenbaum, Oh Tannebaum!
This is a well-established Israeli ritual: One takes a trivial matter, declares it to be the center of national life, decorates it and dances around it, all in order to escape from the real national problems that are so exasperating and frightening. This time it really is a fir tree. A gentleman called Elhanan Tannenbaum. He was a prisoner of Hizbullah. In order to bring him back home, together with the bodies of three soldiers, Ariel Sharon released several hundred “terrorists”. Since then, the whole country has been in uproar, day after day, week after week.
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9. Feb 28 2004
The ghetto inside
It is easier to get the Jews out of the ghetto than to get the ghetto out of the Jews!” – this dictum of the early Zionists is now assuming a new meaning. Israel is cutting itself off from the world and enclosing itself in a ghetto, and not only physically. In The Hague, the proceedings of the International Court of Justice on the Separation Wall have started. Sharon’s people understand that they have no chance of winning and have decided, therefore, to boycott the session. Instead of arguing their case before the court, they decided to organize a street event, in the spirit of the classic Israeli maxim: “If your case is weak, raise your voice!”
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8. Feb 21 2004
Sharon's dancing bear
Once upon a time there was a popular kind of street show: a bear would dance for the amusement of passers by, who would throw coins into his box. The bear was big and frightening, but his clumsy movements made people laugh. He was much stronger than his master, who kept him on a chain, but submitted to him completely. A wonder to behold. The national symbol of the United States is the eagle. The bear, as everybody knows, is the national symbol of Russia. But looking at the Sharon-Bush relationship, it is the old master-and-bear show that inevitably springs to mind.
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7. Feb 14 2004
Yes, Minister!
In one of the episodes of the outstanding British TV series “Yes, Minister!” the Permanent Undersecretary, Sir Humphrey, teaches his minister how to use Commissions of Inquiry: Take an honorable retired judge, a doddering old fool, and put him in charge of the inquiry, with a sizable honorarium. Help him to arrive himself at the required conclusions. Feed him the appropriate facts and hint at a peerage. From there on, everything will work out as desired. At this moment, three parallel but separate commissions of inquiry are at work: one American, one British and one Israeli. All three are supposed to find out why the intelligence community supplied the government with false information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
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6. Feb 7 2004
Go to Gaza
Do you want to make the deal of a lifetime? Go to Gaza! The government has kindly laid on armored vehicles for this purpose. Once there, you can obtain the villa you have dreamt about all your life, with two floors and a green lawn, for next to nothing. The State is rich. You can put up greenhouses and produce flowers or vegetables. Once upon a time you could engage Palestinian workers, who would work for a pittance. They had no alternative, because their land was taken away from them. Now this is too dangerous, so you will engage workers from Thailand, who get even less.
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5. Jan 31 2004
Mourning becomes Israel
Two ceremonies on the same day, but what a difference! At an Israeli Air Force base, the bodies of three soldiers killed on the Lebanese border were ceremonially repatriated. The bodies had been held for three years by Hisbullah (the “Party of God”), who also freed a rather shady Israeli businessman they had detained in Beirut. In return, the Sharon government released 429 prisoners, Palestinian, Lebanese and others, and returned to Lebanon the bodies of 60 Lebanese militants buried temporarily in Israel. The Lebanese prisoners who were released by Israel arrived at Beirut airport at exactly the time the bodies of the three soldiers arrived at the Israeli air base. Television created a virtual reality: the viewer could be present at both ceremonies simultaneously. By a simple movement of the finger, one could switch from Israel to Lebanon and back in a split second.
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4. Jan 24 2004
An eskimo in bantustan
An Eskimo comes to town and sees a piece of glass for the first time in his life. The glass looks to him like ice. Ice is transparent, and so is glass. Ice can be chewed. So the Eskimo puts the glass in his mouth and starts to chew. This is quite logical behavior. It is a warning against the over-simple use of analogies. Analogies are a useful device in many instances, but one must always check how far the similarity goes. They should not be applied blindly, because they may lead to a fallacious conclusion.
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3. Jan 17 2004
Anti-semitism: a practical manual
A Hungarian Joke: During the June 1967 war, a Hungarian meets his friend. “Why do you look so happy?” he asks. “I heard that the Israelis shot down six Soviet-made MiGs today,” his friend replies. The next day, the friend looks even more jubilant. “The Israelis downed another eight MiGs,” he announces. On the third day, the friend is crestfallen. “What happened? Didn’t the Israelis down any MiGs today?” the man asks. “They did,” the friend answers, “But today someone told me that the Israelis are Jews!”
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2. Jan 10 2004
A fox called Lion
You really can’t rely on these Arabs. Take this fellow, Qaddafi. For decades he played the clown. The whole world laughed at him (except when he downed a French plane in Chad and the Pan-Am jet over Lockerbie.) His Libya was a “rogue state”, an international pariah. He was working on Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Americans hated him, and from time to time bombed him, killing his daughter on one such occasion. You could rely on good old Qaddafi. He supplied us with an alibi for producing all kinds of interesting weapons. Everybody understood that with such people around, Israel needs the doomsday weapon, and that it’s useless to talk about peace. And then, suddenly?
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1. Jan 3 2004
Who needs an imitation?
Would you believe it? The Israeli Labor Party has a political program. Like a top hat for a bum. Seems this program has been around for two months already. I just didn’t hear a thing about it until somebody took pity on me and faxed me a copy the other day. This is the Labor Party that is now considering whether to extend Shimon Peres’ term as party chairman for another year or two. Shimon Peres, who served as Ariel Sharon’s foreign minister and who is now longing to return to Sharon’s government.
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