Thursday, February 12, 1998

Going on the Record

It is apparent that the dominant forces in the political establishment and the media are fully endorsing plans by the United States to deal a decisive military blow to Iraq.Once again, the political atmosphere is dominated by a shallow type of “standarized thinking.” However, many Israelis, who are not motivated by a shred of sympathy for Sadaam and his regime, can clearly see that there are serious weak points in the U.S. argument.
The United States, in launching an armed attack on Iraq, cannot pretend to be acting in the name of the United Nations and the international community. Three out of five permanent members of the Security Council have expressed clear reservations regarding U.S. positions and motivations. Moreover, in contrast to the circumstances obtaining in 1991, most of Iraq’s neighbors and all the Arab countries have serious reservations regarding the U.S. plan to attack Iraq.
Even the war-aims of the United States are muddled: the strike cannot hope to achieve its desired goal: it cannot stop Iraq from producing unconventional weapons of mass destruction and almost eliminates any Iraqi interest in so doing.
Even if Iraqi behavior deserves full condemnation, the U.S. is acting immorally and according to a double standard. It is the people of Iraq who will pay a horrendous price for the execution of the U.S. plans. Moreover, the United States desires to prove that it, and it alone, can decide which UN Resolutions must be observed and who can and who cannot be permitted to produce and deploy non conventional weapons of mass destruction.
What is clear is the need of the United States to demonstrate its virtual monopoly on the use of force in international relations. Appearances to the contrary, Israel can gain nothing from increased tension and conflagrations in the Middle East.

Tuesday, February 3, 1998

The Gavison Affair

Tuesday, February 3rd, 1998
I reread the Kol Ha’ir artilcles (January 30, 1998)by Dafna Baram and Michael Sfarad. Since I have no reason to doubt the honesty and the professionalism of the two reporters, it appears that Gavison has expressed a rather strange lenience towards torture.We are told in the report that “Gavison refrained yesterday from responding to the information and claimed that ‘I do not have time to answer questions on internal documents, regarding which I have no knowledge as to how they came into your hands.”
Though, I sense that Gavison expressed herself regarding the important issues in a matter unworthy of her post and her record, I did not rush to judgement. Simply stated, there is a known procedure to clear up this kind of matter, or at least to get your version of the affair before the public, friend and foe, included. It’s called a specific and detailed letter of denial. If she has not written such a letter to Kol Ha’ir she certainly must. The absence of this letter, that should have been the only proper rebuttal to here critics, is, to say the least, very saddening.
However, at this stage, there is every reason in the world to thank Gideon Spiro for his wonderful habit of whistle blowing – which demands quite a bit of courage and determination. Orchids for Yitzhak Laor for not permitting the matter to be filed away….There was one point that I think that Yitzhak was trying to make, that should be underlined. We are all of us, members of a privileged stratum in a privileged society. As such we tend to be very forgiving to associates, friends, members of our families who just happen to be members of the apparatus who –let’s face it – blood on their hands. Private weaknesses aside, such leniency is unforgivable in public figures who have assumed responsibility for the defense of human rights.
The Israeli legal system works hard to maintain its “humane and progressive image,” especially, in international circles. But we know that when it comes to the rights of the Palestinians, the legal system has and still condones the worst forms of immoral and even illegal activity by the security forces. Why would any humanist express any sort of understanding for the “predicament,” of the courts after it has long been clear that these same security forces are corrupt and inefficient and the link between the real world of systematic torture and legitimate security concerns is, at the best, highly tenuous.Moreover, has not the whole security argument been totally and completely contaminated by the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues thanks to the policies of the Israeli government which refuses to recognize Palestinian national and human rights?
The whole scene is further clouded since, quite recently, there are many liberals who are beginning to realize that “Bibi is a wizard” and he might be successful in ending the conflict by settling all the West Bank and keeping the Palestinians in ghettoes. In the absence of a clear and convincing denial by Ruth Gavison of the points made in the Kol Ha’ir article, one must fear that she was influenced, hopefully unconsciously, by the recent wave of illusions. I am talking about those illusions that assume that we will get away with anything because we are the only democracy in the Middle East….

Tuesday, January 20, 1998

What Does This Mean, If Anything?

After quite a bit of trepidation, I have decided to put the following account of a recent Tel Aviv meeting (December 27, 1997) on the net. My doubts on this score stem from my being quite subjective about the meeting which I moderated (due to Prof. Benyamin Cohen’s illness) and my tendency to wax optimistic over any positive indicator.
Now, for some facts. The Israeli Committee to Mark the 150th Anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto (in 1848) came into existence last spring. The establishment of the committee was a direct response to an initiative in Paris. This initiative, bearing the rather intriguing name, EspacesMarx, was the joint project of all the main forces in the French left: Socialists, Communists and Trotskyists and many independent intellectuals. EspacesMarx called for the creation of local, national committees all over the globe; tens of such committees are already in operation in an interesting expression of some sort of “Marxist globlalization.” The guiding spirit in the Israeli committee, from its very inception, has been Prof. Benyamin Cohen, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.
A detailed, official summary of its activities will, no doubt, be issued in the near future. Here, let me mention that the Committee has inspired the coming publication of a new Hebrew edition of the Communist Manifesto, with a specially written new introduction by Prof. Eric Hobsbawm. The meeting under review here was the first public activity by the Committee.
Ahad Ha’am #70 Was Packed
For the record it is important to note that we had a good panel of speakers. Tzvi Tauber and Moshe Zuckerman from Tel Aviv University, MK Tamar Gozanski, Dr.Walid Salim, a member of the Palestinian affiliate of Espaces Marx, and Michael Lowy, from Paris, representing the EspacesMarx Secretariat. Certainly, when all is said and done, it is the content of the various interventions which is of critical importance. But alas, this is simply not the occasion for such an evaluation, and it would be unfair to do it without benefit of written texts. I do have the feeling, though, that the day is not too far off when we will have a renewed dialogue between Marxists – here in Israel.
A rather significant aspect of this meeting was the presence of 150 participants, representing two major age groups. It is common knowledge that we often have to note the very high average age of those in attendance at meetings of the left. This time, you would have to relate to two average ages, because there were at least 50 people in the audience who could be considered of student age (which is slightly older in this country than abroad).
I may be “over” analyzing a minor event, but I think that the number of participants and their age stemmed from (1) the presence of lecturers from Tel Aviv U. who identify with the continuing importance of Marx and the Manifesto; (2) the intense class and social struggles in Israel during the month of December: a) the general strike at the beginning of the month; b), the outcry and struggle over unemployment symbolized by the situation in the development town, Ofakim and c) the battle to defend the public health system and the criticism of the proposed budget [which, incidentally, is still going on]; (3) It may well be that the current rumblings in the international capitalist economy have generated new interest in social(ist) criticism.
At any rate, the existence of a well-attended meeting of this kind in Tel Aviv is a breath of fresh air. Moreover, the amicable presence of Marxists from different, “clashing” points of view seems to suggest the slogan for 1998: “Marxists of all schools and approaches, unite in a dialogue of mutual respect, for unity in diversity: you have nothing to lose but your (our) state of marginalization.”