Resistance in Israel undercuts settler regime
By Leslie Feinberg
The settler state of Israel, imposed on historic Palestine
by massive and sustained force of arms and an apartheid
structure of racist segregation, could not last for a day
without being shored up by its main pillars: Wall Street, the
Pentagon and the Big Lie.
But a rising sea change is eroding that support foundation.
After more than half a century of resistance to colonial
occupation, the fortitude and endurance of the Palestinian
struggle--from youth to elders--is inspiring a surge of
solidarity around the world. Two prolonged
Intifadas--Uprisings--have swept like waves across
This determination to fight for freedom against all odds has
motivated Israelis themselves to lay down their arms or to
refuse to take them up against the Palestinian population.
It is difficult for anyone called into military service to
refuse to fight, even in an unjust war. During the Pentagon war
against the Vietnamese people, many heroic youths in the United
States refused to enlist as soldiers and GIs overseas rebelled
against their commanders. Their will to resist induction or
even to "frag" their officers was roused by the indomitable
resolve of the Vietnamese nation to oust imperialist
Today in the Middle East, Jewish youths and adults in record
numbers are refusing induction into the Israeli "Defense"
Forces or are balking at the order of their own commanders to
shoot-to-kill Palestinians in the occupied territories. And
while the Israeli military wages war against a people without
an army--using Palestinian civilians as "human shields"--many
people from around the world and across the U.S., including
many Jewish activists, are voluntarily traveling to the
occupied territories to enter the fray by defending the
Palestinian people with their bodies.
This takes a lot of guts and a lot of consciousness to do
so, because of the Big Lie. Zionism as a willing tool of
imperial empires has always mantled itself in the cynical
falsehood that it was creating a safe homeland for Jewish
people. After the horrors of the fascist Holocaust, the idea of
a haven was certainly appealing. The lie was sweetened with
more mendacity: that Israel was "a land without a people for a
people without a land." This prevarication was accompanied by
an orchestrated campaign of terror to force a mass exodus of
Palestinians from their farms and homes, villages and
The widening ranks of "refuseniks" in Israel objectively
demonstrate the growing understanding that no people can free
themselves from oppression by acting as an oppressor nation to
subjugate another people. Israel has always been, and remains,
an outpost for imperialist interests--financial, military and
strategic--in the Middle East, not the interests of Jewish
people, and certainly not in the interests of the masses of
IDF soldiers have witnessed the death and terrible
destruction wreaked by the treads of the Israeli military
machine that bristles with weaponry made in the USA. They have
seen firsthand the torture of Palestinian prisoners,
humiliation and brutalization of Arab women, men and children
in the grip of apartheid, and the destruction of the
Palestinian infrastructure and widespread and organized
military looting of Arab homes.
As a result, students as young as high school age are
refusing to enlist, knowing that they face prison. Every Jewish
male must serve three years in the IDF and then become a
More than 317 faculty members of Israeli universities have
signed onto a letter "to express our appreciation and support
for those of our students and lecturers who refuse to serve as
soldiers in the occupied territories. ... For 35 years an
entire people, some three and a half million in number, have
been held without basic human rights. The occupation and
oppression of another people have brought the State of Israel
to where it is today."
Soldiers from all ranks, including several hundred decorated
officers, are refusing military service in the occupied
territories. One of former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's
nephews is behind bars for refusing service because of Israel's
oppression and occupation of the Palestinian people.
(MiddleEast.org, Aug. 17)
Rami Kaplan, a 29-year-old major in the Israeli armored
corps, is a leader in the Courage to Refuse group. He wrote in
an April 30 International Herald Tribune article, "Israel's
occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip can in no way be
considered democratic. It oppresses 3.5 million people, denying
them their basic human rights. My refusal to militarily
participate in this occupation, on the other hand, is most
certainly a democratic act."
He continued, "The refusal of the 435 signatories to the
'Courage to Refuse' letter is a refusal to fight for
continuation of the occupation, or, more precisely, for
continuation of the settlements. It is a refusal to fight in a
war of choice fueled by an extremist messianic ideology."
Progressive Israeli activists from Gush Shalom, the Israeli
Peace Bloc, warned pilots they were carrying out punishable war
crimes after the Israeli Air Force dropped a 2,000-pound bomb
from a U.S.-supplied Israeli F-16 into the center of densely
populated Gaza City at midnight on July 22. The blast killed
Sheik Salah Shehadeh, senior commander of the military wing of
Hamas and 14 other adults and children, and wounded at least
176 others. In response, IAF Commander Major Gen. Dan Halutz
angrily demanded the Gush Shalom activists be tried, possibly
for treason. (gush-shalom.org)
The bottom line: Divest!
"Divest from apartheid!" Activists who immediately think
about the brutal system of segregation in South Africa, backed
up by bloody state repression, date themselves back to a
multifaceted and fierce struggle in the late 1970s and 1980s
against Pretoria's white supremacist rulers in the tip of
Africa who enjoyed the deep-pocket backing of U.S. big
But today the demand is for Israel's corporate cronies in
this country--from Wall Street to the ivy-covered halls of
academia--to stop financing the apartheid occupation of
Since Israel is not a viable economy that can stand on its
own, it can only bloom because of the torrential river of U.S.
patronage--an average of $3 billion to $4 billion a year in
official aid and billions more in financial tributaries. The
Pentagon and its adjunct military-industrial complex have built
Israel into the world's fifth-ranking military power, despite
its having a population of about 5 million people.
From Harvard, MIT and Princeton on the East Coast to the
University of California on the West Coast, the demand to
divest from Israel is rising on 40 campuses across the breadth
of the United States. And, according to dyed-in-the-wool
opponents of the pro-Palestinian activist effort, this is just
the beginning. Jeff Rubin of the student organization
Hillel--which strongly opposes divestment--told the Associated
Press he expects the campaign to widen when the new school year
opens this fall. "We are taking it seriously," he said.
Widely circulated petitions list many demands, including a
call to ratchet up the pressure on Israel to withdraw from Arab
territory it seized in the 1967 war, return to the negotiating
table and halt building settlements.
Demands for divestment are aimed at goliaths that prop up
the Zionist settler regime--like AT&T, McDonald's, Hewlett
Packard and GE.
Palestinian lawmaker Hana Ashrawi spoke optimistically about
the struggle for divestment. "It will begin to get people to
question their assumptions," she said. And she pointed out that
Jewish people in the U.S. were among the "people of courage and
wisdom" who have added their names to the growing stacks of
From Berkeley to Ann Arbor, city councils are debating
divesting their municipalities from Israel.
And speaking of Berkeley, a group of some 25 lesbian, gay,
bisexual and trans activists from the group QUIT--Queers
Undermining Israeli Terrorism--took over a downtown Berkeley
Starbucks on Aug. 17.
The imaginative and brave action used razor-sharp satire to
slice through the Zionist claim to historic Palestine. They
declared Berkeley "a city without people for people without a
city," vowing to continue to establish more "settlements" in
future actions. They erected plastic palm trees to "make the
concrete bloom" and signs reading, "It works in Palestine, why
not here?" and, "It's ours because we say so."
The Starbucks was an early target, the group explained,
because founder and CEO Howard Shultz is a major backer of the
Israeli state and this corporate coffee chain is one of the
bull's-eyes of the divestment movement.
"Since Mr. Shultz clearly believes it is okay for one group
of people to grab land belonging to another and say they have a
right to it, we figure he won't mind if we take some of his,"
QUIT's leaflet explained.
Parallels to South Africa
The parallels between the racist apartheid system of rule in
South Africa and in Israel beg comparison. In a newspaper
editorial published in the U.S. press in June, South African
Nobel laureate and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorsed the
call for divestment and drew parallels between the conditions
of occupation that Palestinians endure and the segregated
districts that Black people were forced into in South Africa
during white supremacist rule.
Ian Urbina, associate editor at the Middle East Research and
Information Project, pointed out in his article "The Analogy to
Apartheid" that white-ruled territories in South Africa
consisted of 87 percent of the country, including big cities
and most of the arable land. "Nominally independent bantustans,
forming a horseshoe-shaped archipelago along the nation's
outskirts, made up the remaining 13 percent of the land."
(Middle East Report 223, Summer 2002)
The state of Israel sprawls over 78 percent of the original
British-mandated territory, while Palestine makes up the
remaining 22 percent. Urbina added, "In early September 2000,
Israeli activists organized a conference in Neve Shalom to
announce a Campaign Against an Emerging Apartheid, which some
on the radical left feel is an apt description of Israel's
'matrix of control'-- composed of settlements, bypass roads,
security zones and checkpoints--in Palestine."
Urbina also noted, "Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky, two
Jewish heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle, recently
published a letter titled 'Not in My Name.' Signed by several
hundred other prominent Jewish South Africans, the letter drew
an explicit analogy between apartheid and current Israeli
policies." (http://merip.org/mer/ mer223/223_urbina.html)
Jewish Israeli political scientist Ilan Pappe told the
Associated Press that he, too, sees clear parallels between the
settler state and apartheid South Africa. "The only thing that
can end the Israeli occupation is outside pressure," he
Palestinian rights activist Jabr Wishah recounts his
discussion with Nelson Mandela when the former South African
political prisoner visited the Gaza Strip three years ago.
Wishah, who spent 15 years in Israeli prisons, said he and
Mandela compared notes about Israeli and South African
interrogation tactics. (AP, Aug. 19)
In a major embarrassment to the Tel Aviv settler regime,
Mandela has agreed to observe the trial of Palestinian leader
Marwan Barghouti--a lawyer, member of the Palestinian
legislative council and secretary general of the Fatah movement
in the West Bank. Barghouti, arrested in April on charges of
murder and terrorism, is the first senior Palestinian to face
trial in the two years of the Intifada.
Khader Shkirat, board member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human
Rights Network, quoted Mandela as having said, "What is
happening to Barghouti is exactly the same as what happened to
me. The government tried to de-legitimize the African National
Congress and its armed struggle by putting me on trial."
Reprinted from the Sept. 5, 2002, issue of
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