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August 27, 2001
Who is the victim, who is the executioner?

By Emmnauel Dror Farjoun


An introductry word by John Villaume: The following is a translation of a letter sent to Ha'aretz, Israel's leading daily, by Prof Emmanuel Farjoun of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which he replies to a piece published in that paper on 26 June 2001. The paper published on 28 June an abridged version, cutting out some of the sharpest passages. Even that truncated version was not included in the English-language e-edition of Ha'aretz. The following translation was made by Emmanuel himself. Moshe Machover has made some slight stylistic emendations, with Prof. Farjoun's permission.

Who is the victim, who is the executioner?
By: Emmnauel Dror Farjoun, Jerusalem.

Ari Shavit, a man proudly loyal to his nation, wonders why the left in Israel has remained silent over the murder of Israeli settlers in the West Bank (Ha'aretz, 26.6.01). I will answer in my own name, knowing full well that even within the left my voice represents a minority, albeit not an insignificant one.

I have kept silent over the continual killings of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, because in my opinion the whole colonization project of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is a war crime that makes my blood boil. To me, each and every adult settler is an independent accomplice in this war crime, in the robbery of lands, in the shameful exploitation, in the repression of the most elementary human rights of the Palestinians, and in the continual killing and torture that have been going on for more than 34 years.

Each settler is an active participant in the discrimination in all areas of life. The apartheid regime that Israel created after the war of 1967 in the occupied territories, using the military and the settlers, is certainly the moral and practical equivalent of the slavery that was enforced on many African peoples. This enslavement also took place with the active participation of their own chiefs. It is also similar to the South African apartheid regime in whose enforcement many black policemen took part.

It is well known that sometimes slaves react with extreme violence against their masters. For some examples of this, read The Confession of Nat Turner by W. Styron. Rape and wanton murder were part and parcel of such slave revolts, which interestingly enough were quite rare. In South Africa during the apartheid regime one witnessed terrible torture and burnings of suspected black collaborators and policemen. Nevertheless, the organizations and mass movements that called for the liberation of the slaves did not spend much time protesting these violent and brutal acts.

These sometimes terrible atrocities by slaves against their masters serve > to demonstrate that a slavery regime corrupts and destroys not only the masters but also the spirit and morality of the slaves themselves, the direct victims of slavery.

To call, as Ari Shavit does, the violent and sometimes murderous struggle by three million persons who are deprived of minimal rights, are stateless, are often deprived of water, even of food and certainly are deprived of the minimal freedom of movement, to call such a struggle 'ethnic cleansing', as Shavit calls it, amounts to scorning the underdog. By the same token the American Indians performed "ethnic cleansing" against the whites, and in South Africa the blacks who struggle to regain territories and land lost during decades and centuries of land robbery are also performing ethnic cleansing.

Could Ari Shavit give another example, a bit removed from himself, of an ethnic cleansing perpetrated by stateless victims who have been under occupation for decades against one of the strongest and richest countries of the globe?

It is not only the Israeli left that thinks that the Israeli state under various governments is breaking international law and violating international agreements to which Israel has committed itself: it not only the left who consider the head of our government a probable war criminal who has been engaged in systematic killing for the last fifty years. We have all seen the BBC programme about Sharon's crimes in Lebanon, and even an Israeli government commission has found him partly responsible for the mass killing of completely innocent civilians in Shatila refugee camp.

In his advanced age Sharon perhaps begins to feel the heavy burden of the murderous force that he has employed for the last fifty years -- from the reprisal operation in the village of Qibyeh in his early days, through Sabra and Shatila, to the recent F-16 bombing of the heart of the dense inner city of Nablus. But his crimes are not specific to him. He feels perfectly comfortable with his government allies, many of whom took part in similar and possibly worse crimes.

Perhaps a small metaphor will help Mr Shavit understand my attitude towards the killing of settlers. If I see a woman being violently and repeatedly raped defending herself by sticking her fingers or even a pair of scissors into the rapist's eyes, I may gasp or be taken aback for a moment by her violent reaction, but at the same time I know full well who is the rapist and who is being raped and how serious the crime is. Further, if during the very act, the rapist forces on his victim negotiation of the exact amount of his withdrawal, instead of leaving her alone, I give him no credit points for his offer to leave only 10% of his body inside her, and even this provided she behaves nicely and does not complain to the police the following day. No, I give him no credit points for this kind of partial reconsideration of the situation.

The continued occupation by the disgusting apartheid regime that subjects three million people, of whom a million and a half are children, to the arbitrary power of occupation, suppression of rights and countless restrictions will be paid each year with higher and higher interest rates by the two societies: in the continual corruption on both sides, in the enormous strengthening of the religious extreme ideologies and groups, in the flight of the best brains and trained people and the obstruction of education and professionalism at all levels, in the flight of many sensitive people who cannot bear the continual violence and inhuman discrimination and barbaric degradation of many aspects of life.

We will all pay dearly when both societies will break up into struggling groups pulling in opposite directions or alternatively both societies unite themselves around false visions of revenge, destruction of the other side, liberation of the holy lands and holy sites and other real estate dreams.

As long as the cynical and shameful exploitation of the three million Palestinians is made possible by the concentration zones A and B and C to which they are confined and by total control of food and other products, as long as the beautiful hills and valleys of the West Bank lure and whet the appetite of a large part of Israeli society, the road forward to further modern development will be greatly obstructed. Further, the possibility of falling backwards to religious, cultural and eventually scientific-technological degradation, Afghanistan-style, is real and in fact developing every day.

It is possible to claim with some justification that in its initial phase, the occupation brought some real and substantial, if immorally gotten, gains to the Israeli society and even to the Palestinian one. But this stage has long passed. Now we are all bogged down in its mire, while many of our leaders still attempt to bring back the glorious initial days of profitable occupation. The initial exhilaration of this occupation drug has turned into a woeful drug addiction with all its usual criminal consequences and frustrating and hopeless attempts to liberate oneself from the worst aspects without really giving it up.

Now we are paying heavily in the astonishing indifference of large sections of our society to modern development, by a huge turn to the most narrow and degrading form of religious "learning", by the proliferation of religious schools in which nothing beyond the Talmud is taught, where science in general and biology in particular is despised and avoided as terrible heresy. It is clear to me that the denial of the biological theory of evolution is as dangerous to Israeli society as, say, the denial of the holocaust to European socio-political culture.

The Israeli religious movements, with cunning instinct, understand very well that the this lure of West Bank real estate, the messianism of Greater Israel, and hopes of glory via total control of the whole Land and its peoples by the Jews is the greatest obstacle to the modern development of the Israeli people -- a development which to them represents the worst danger. They happily direct attention to the lure of "riches", real-estate and religio-cultural, in material possession of land and workers and away from the only real source of richness: modern scientific-technological and cultural progress, towards which many Israelis have started leaning heavily and with spectacularly good results.

Thus they are carried in their extreme nationalism and chauvinism not only by religious and all too materialistic greed and dedication to the "Land of Israel" but also by the understanding that racism and factual and legal assertion of the inferiority of everything non-Jewish is the greatest obstacle to further modern technological and cultural-cosmopolitan development of Israel both in the areas of human and social rights and the political-economic domain.

No, nothing justifies indiscriminate killing. Not even this shameful occupation. Even the aim of liberation does not sanctify all the means employed on the way. After all, the logic of sanctification of the means by the holy aims turns the sometimes immoral means themselves into new holy aims and oftentimes pushes the real final aims into the remote background.

But the movement against occupation in Israel was created to battle against a specific thing, a specific state-inflicted violence and discrimination, rather than to fight against any transgression of moral codes. We are here to defend to victims of state policy, not the abused neighbours nor to protest against the killing of land robbers such as the settlers, be they the more extreme version of Goldstein, the mass murderer of 32 peaceful Palestinian worshippers in Hebron, or the milder land confiscators who enclose the Palestinians' ancestral lands.

Yes, the Israeli occupation increases every day the corruption of the Palestinians, just as slavery has always corrupted and destroyed many of its victims, not least by blocking most of the possible roads for their normal human development compatible with the times. The results of this corruption will be and are being criticised, principally by brave Palestinian voices, and loudly I hope. But as long as the crimes of continual collective rape that Israel perpetrates in the west Bank and Gaza have not ended, my voice of protest against the crimes of the slaves themselves, the crimes of the prisoners of the concentration zones, of the new ghettos, blocked away by Israeli tanks from any free development and movement, my voice will be but a whisper in comparison to my unrelenting anger against the collective executioner: the governments of Israel and their collaborators from all ranks of the Israeli and Palestinian societies.